Earl Rasmussen: I think it was very good. Obviously, the speech he gives every year is focused primarily on domestic but he did raise some issues on the international stage as well, rightly so. But I thought it was very good. He was addressing not only accomplishments but more so highlighting the key concerns of the country itself and identifying with many of those things initiatives or key objectives within his concerns; so basically he portrayed a vision to address some of those areas as well, which we don't usually hear here, but I thought it was very good how he blended that and how he covered so many different areas: from wages, to healthcare to education, to R&D, to housing, it was very covering.
And then, obviously, he brought up a concern, rightly so, as far as specifically leading into that with the US INF withdrawal and the need to ensure a proper defence for Russia.
Sputnik: I've spoken to two or three commentators, experts now about his speech today (on 20 February) they're all saying he's an excellent orator. He does know how to deliver a speech, there's no question about that. Now President Putin has warned of tit-for-tat responses to Washington's missiles in Europe, what's the idea behind the missiles and does the plan make NATO presence in the region obsolete, what's your take on that?
Earl Rasmussen: Both sides have criticised each other for years. The US has given very few details, they mostly complain about Russia's short-range 9M729 that it's known as. Although, they're not openly hearing detailed presentations on it. Similarly, Russia has echoed concerns on both the ballistic missile defence systems that were initially discussed 18 years ago and now are actually being implemented, the Aegis Ashore system essentially, as well as the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. You can probably say both are technically no violation, but they've broken the edge, but it's how you define and interpret the terms in the agreement and obviously it's a threat.
So I think, rightly so, he needs to look at security of Russian and when you've got NATO expanding right up to your borders and now you're putting troops and missile systems in there, that basically is a US or NATO aggression, and you need to counter that to some degree. So I think everything he's doing is in a defensive direction, I don't see it an aggression side on Russia's point, but he's actually taken a defensive posture. Does it make NATO's presence obsolete? I do not think so.
When it does do it raising the concerns and it should raise within the Europe on the potential threats that these countries that may host these systems or be able to control or decisively engage the deployment of them, those countries potentially become targets. So the new systems Russia's having can probably knock those out quickly. I think it raises concern for Europe. Europe needs to speak up. I think Europe is against the INF withdrawal and I think they should speak up more clearly on them. Further on the missiles on the INF is yes, does it need to be modernised or updated, yes, but a complete withdrawal I think it's the wrong direction.
Sputnik: It was interesting to hear President Putin. He went out of his way to reiterate when he was talking about the various missiles and armaments and the Avangard system that as far as President Putin was concerned he had no desire to attack any country. He was only concerned about Russian sovereignty, his own country's people and his protection of the people and the resources. What do you think the key statements the mainstream media in America are going to highlight with regard to the things that he was saying, because after all he was promoting some specialist armaments technology that is being introduced. Have you got your view with regard to how and what they are going to focus on in terms of media attention in the US?
Earl Rasmussen: You're absolutely right. He reiterated multiple times that there are no plans whatsoever to make any type of invasions or aggressive actions, it's purely defensive. But will the media here, the mainstream media highlight that? Most likely not, and they probably won't even focus on the domestic initiatives that he's launching but rather they'll focus on the missile systems that he has highlighted, on the defensive posturing and they'll twist that to say that it's the threats and more examples of Russian aggression, which I've yet to see in anything.
But I would not be surprised if that's how the media twists the statements from a defensive posture versus the need to actually address updating our security agreements. You know the other part we haven't talked about that should be a concern is that the Strategic Arms [Reduction] Treaty ends in 2021 and there's been, from my understanding, very little progress on any discussions on that and that should be of concern for many countries around the world.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Earl Rasmussen and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.
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