Addressing the threat posed by plans by the United States to install a missile defense system in Europe, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin today asserted that Russia would respond with nuclear weapons if it was targeted by conventional American missiles.
Rogozin’s comments arrive just a day after President Vladimir Putin called on Russia to upgrade its weapons systems in order to repel U.S. plans to institute the EPAA missile shield in Europe, which is ostensibly designed to counter Iran’s nuclear build-up yet is also firmly pointed at Russia.
Asserting that Russia was “preparing a response” to the U.S. missile defense system, Rogozin warned, “They may experiment with conventional weapons on strategic delivery platforms, but they must bear in mind, that if we are attacked, in certain circumstances we will of course respond with nuclear weapons.”
The Obama White House has refused to mothball plans for the missile defense shield despite the Bush administration initially signaling it would be scrapped. Although Washington has indicated it will abandon long range missiles, medium-range interceptors will be installed in Redzikowo, Poland by 2018.
Moscow still fears that NATO powers are using Iran as a camouflage for the true target of the missiles – Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.
Russia has itself been working on new Yars (SS-29) Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles that have the capability of penetrating U.S. missile defenses and are set to be added to Moscow’s nuclear arsenal next year.
Russia is currently engaged in the largest military build-up since the cold war, including the development of a new missile defense radar in southern and western Russia designed to counter missiles launched from Europe, as part of maneuvers which pose, “a strategic threat to the United States and NATO allies,” according to US military officials.
Earlier this summer, Russia staged its biggest military exercise since the cold war in order to ascertain the readiness of putting intercontinental ballistic missiles on “high-alert” within a short time frame.
The drill was swiftly followed by NATO’s biggest drill since the cold war, an exercise that was based around NATO’s response to a simulated invasion of Poland by a “foreign power.”
The two drills coincided with Japanese fighters being forced to intercept Russian bombers that were practicing attacks on U.S. bases in the western Pacific.
A heightening of tensions between the U.S. and Russia would dovetail with the threat of a new arms race in Asia between Japan and China in response to the crisis surrounding the disputed Senkaku Islands.