Putin Says US Has Triggered Global Arms Race by Withdrawing From ABM Treaty
13:26 GMT 13.10.2021 (Updated: 17:46 GMT 13.10.2021)
The United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia in 2002, prompting Moscow to dust off Soviet-era plans on the creation of hypersonic weapons technology. Russia unveiled several new hypersonic technologies in 2017 and said it expects these weapons to help guarantee global strategic stability.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the US of opening a Pandora's Box to a global arms race by withdrawing from the ABM Treaty, and said that while the US initially pretended that it didn't care about Russia's hypersonic weapons projects, they have now expressed concerns over these systems' potential.
Speaking at the Russian Energy Week forum on Wednesday, Putin said a global arms race was now "in full swing," and recalled how he had urged his then-US counterpart George W. Bush not to withdraw from the ABM in the early 2000s due to the treaty's status as a "cornerstone of international security." Moscow, he stressed, saw the US decision to quit the treaty as "not just about defence, but an attempt to receive strategic superiority, effectively eliminating the nuclear potential of a potential rival."
"What should we have done in response? I have spoken on this subject many times. If you're interested, I will repeat myself: We could have either created a similar system, which would cost immense amounts of money, and it would be unclear in the end if it would work effectively or not. Or we could have created a different system which would definitely overcome missile defences," Putin said.
"I said that we would do this," Putin recalled. "The response from our American partners was that 'our missile defences are not directed against you, do whatever you want, we will proceed from the fact your projects are not against us.' We built our systems. What claims do they have against us now? Now they don't like them."
Accusing Washington of "undermining all agreements which we reached in the past," Putin pointed out that it wasn't Moscow that withdrew from the ABM, abandoned the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or quit the Open Skies Treaty. "It was our American counterparts who did that. But they are simply shifting the blame on others, and the media are blowing it out of proportion in the interests of those who are paying for it."
Asked to comment on Russia's 'hypersonic Mach 3 guided missiles', Putin corrected his interlocutor: "No, no, no. Mach 3 I think is what the US is working on, and even more than that. Our hypersonic missiles fly at more than Mach 20, and these are not just hypersonic, these are intercontinental missiles. This is a far more serious weapon than what you've just mentioned. And they are already in service in Russia," he said.
Similar weapons are being developed in other countries, Putin said, but Russia has not and will not abuse its superiority in this area or threaten anyone.
"Moreover, we are prepared to engage in negotiations on the reduction of offensive arms and, proceeding from the interests of our American partners, are ready to take account of the fact that we have such systems in the negotiating process," Putin said. Washington, he added, seems to be embarking on the path to starting "a substantive conversation" in this area. Putin said new contacts have been developed following his Geneva summit with US President Joe Biden in June.
Commenting on the "trust deficit" which has developed in relations between Russia and the West, including in the military sphere, Putin emphasized that Moscow always remains "willing to talk directly to NATO."
"As far as our soldiers go, they are stationed on Russian territory. We recently conducted large-scale Zapad-2021 military exercises on our territory. Our American counterparts are also engaging in exercises of a similar scale, but thousands of kilometres from their national territory," Putin stressed.
The Soviet Union and the United States signed the Anti-Ballistic Treaty in 1972. The agreement limited the two countries' development of anti-ballistic missile shield technology, allowing each side to create only a limited anti-missile system in one location – with the USSR building its site around Moscow and the US creating its own in North Dakota.
The treaty was put under pressure in the 1980s, after US President Ronald Reagan announced his "Strategic Defence Initiative" - or "Star Wars" missile defence umbrella. This prompted the USSR to begin working on
hypersonic weapons capable of defeating missile defences in the late 1980s. The collapse of the USSR, the end of the Cold War and the warming of relations between Moscow and Washington led to these plans being put on the shelf, but they were dusted off after the Bush administration unilaterally scrapped the ABM Treaty in 2002.
In 2018, Putin unveiled several new hypersonic weapons system at a state-of-the-nation address to lawmakers. The systems include the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, carried into orbit aboard intercontinental ballistic missiles and the Kinzhal air-launched, nuclear-capable hypersonic cruise missile. Russia expects these and other strategic weapons to help preserve the global strategic balance, and to cool the heads of Pentagon planners working on the concept of a "Prompt Global Strike
" - i.e. the idea of decapitating Russia's leadership and nuclear potential using a massed precision-guided conventional missile attack.