Putin Likens Missile Defense In Europe To Soviet Offensive Missiles In Cuba
Russian President Vladimir Putin equated U.S. proposals to install a missile defensive system in Europe to Soviet Union attempts in 1962 to install offensive nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in Cuba, RIA Novosti, the Russian news agency, reported.
Putin apparently failed to distinguish between the offensive and defensive purposes of each system.
It was the latest Putin attack on plans to place a U.S. Ground-based Midcourse missile Defense (GMD) system in Europe, consisting of a high-capability radar in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptors in silos in Poland.
Putin also has threatened a military strike to annihilate any GMD system that is installed in Europe, claiming that it would pose a threat to the hundreds of Russian ICBMs and nuclear warheads.
President Bush and other U.S. leaders have termed that claim nonsense, noting that there would be just 10 interceptors with insufficient speed to catch and kill Russian ICBMs.
Putin spoke in a news conference after a European Union summit with Russia in Portugal.
RIA Novosti quoted Putin as saying that plans for a GMD system in Europe are "quite similar technologically for us [to the Cuban missile crisis]. We have withdrawn the remains of bases from Vietnam and Cuba, but such threats are being created near our borders," Putin was quoted as saying.
He also recalled that President Bush in 2002 pulled the United States out of a missile defense ban treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Bush and Pentagon leaders have said repeatedly that the European GMD system is needed, soon, to counter a growing threat from Iran, which they predict will have missiles capable of reaching Europe by 2015, or sooner.
That Middle Eastern nation is developing steadily longer-range missiles, and also is developing nuclear materials in defiance of Western nations and the United Nations.
Further, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has threatened to wipe Israel off the map.
But Russia has been as indulgent toward Iran as it has been hostile to plans for a missile defense shield protecting Europe from missiles launched by Middle Eastern nations.
Iran has said it is threatening no one, arguing that the nuclear materials are merely to generate electricity, and denying that it is sending terrorists into Iraq to kill American troops.
Iranian missiles don’t threaten European nations or any other country, the Iranian defense minister, Mostafa Mohammad Najar, said, according to RIA Novosti. The Russian news agency cited local news media as the source of the report.
"Iran’s missiles bear no threat to any states, but are designed exclusively for aggressors who violate the border of Iran," RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.