Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed the West for increasing tensions in Eastern Europe and suggested a “military-technical” response if his request for security guarantees are not met — while a media mouthpiece for the Kremlin warned Russia will hold a gun to “America’s head” if Ukraine is allowed to join NATO.
In a speech Tuesday to Russian defense ministry officials, Putin said Moscow needs “long-term, legally binding guarantees” from the West that the US and NATO will not deploy missile systems in Ukraine, rather than “verbal assurances.”
Russia has amassed as many as 175,000 troops as well as heavy military equipment on its western border with Ukraine, a move many fear is a prelude to an invasion as early as next month.
Putin said NATO has continued to expand its footprint in Europe since the end of the Cold War despite assurances from the West that Moscow’s fears of encroachment are groundless.
“What is happening now, tensions that are building up in Europe, is their [the US and NATO’s] fault every step of the way,” Putin said.
“Russia has been forced to respond at every step,” he added. “The situation kept worsening and worsening, deteriorating and deteriorating. And here we are today, in a situation when we’re forced to resolve it somehow.”
Putin vowed if the US and its allies continue their “obviously aggressive stance,” Russia would take “appropriate retaliatory military-technical measures,” adding that it has “every right to do so.”
At the same time, the Russian leader said he hopes that “constructive, meaningful talks” will lead to a resolution that all sides can be on board with.
“Armed conflicts, bloodshed is not our choice, and we don’t want such developments. We want to resolve issues by political and diplomatic means,” Putin said.
President Biden, who held a virtual summit with Putin earlier this month has warned that the US would impose “substantial” economic sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine.
Dmitry Kiselev, a Putin confidant and the head of state-controlled media outlet Rossiya Segodnya, took a more militant approach in an interview with the BBC.
He said if the West fails to deliver the security guarantees then Russia will “deploy missiles.”
“But this is your choice. We don’t want this,” Kiselev said in the interview published on Monday.
“If Ukraine ever joins NATO or if NATO develops military infrastructure there, we will hold a gun to America’s head. We have the military capability,” he said.
“Russia has the best weapons in the world — hypersonic ones. They’d reach America as fast as US or British weapons could reach Moscow from Ukraine. It would be the Cuban missile crisis all over again, but with a shorter flight time for the missiles,” he threatened.
Kisilev added Moscow was prepared to defend the red lines Putin laid down last month against the deployment of missiles in Ukraine.
“One hundred percent, because for Russia this is a question of life or death,” he said.
US Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried, the top US diplomat in Europe, said the administration is “prepared to discuss those proposals that Russia put on the table.”
“There are some things we’re prepared to work on, and we do believe there is merit in having discussion,” Donfried told reporters after a visit to Kiev, Moscow and Brussels.
“There are other things in those documents that the Russians know will be unacceptable,” she said, without specifying which ones.
Talks could begin in January, Donfried added.
With Post wires