Russian President Medvedev threatens West with new arms race

U.S. President Obama meeting with Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) has warned of the potential for a new arms race with the West. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Jason Reed/Picasa)

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said at a 2009 international arms conference in Lisbon, Portugal, that Russia was in a position where it had to continue to develop nuclear weapons to counter U.S. missile defense systems and prevent Washington from feeling it can do “whatever it wants,” reports Al Jazeera. That attitude appears to pervade, as President Dmitry Medvedev warned Tuesday during Russia’s state of the nation address that if Russia and NATO cannot reach an agreement regarding a missile defense system, a new arms race could be the result. Medvedev wants Russia to be an equal partner with NATO in developing a continental missile shield, otherwise it will prepare for the worst.

Russia does not take a new arms race lightly

Medvedev’s comments indicate that he does not take the thought of a new arms race lightly. He categorized that potential scenario as “very grave.” Medvedev has expressed a continued desire to work with NATO to share intelligence and responsibility in the formation of a missile defense system.

Yet Russia and NATO are at an impasse regarding which nations pose a nuclear threat, reports Al Jazeera. While the United States point the finger at Iran and North Korea, Russia sees those nations as “relatively harmless in the near future.” The most serious concern Russia has over the missile defense system is that it could be transformed into an offensive system that could literally rain down nuclear missiles and bombs. President Medvedev is demanding a legally binding agreement that stipulates that a NATO-aligned missile defense shield will never set its sights on Russia, said Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer to the AFP news organization.

Batman and Robin

According to Al Jazeera’s Moscow correspondent Neave Barker, Dmitry Medvedev’s firm pronouncements regarding the potential for a new arms race have countered the notion that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is actually the one in charge, even though Putin’s words in Lisbon last year appear to have been a lead-in to Medvedev’s address. If Medvedev wants to break out of the shadow of Putin rather than remaining the Robin to his Batman (as U.S. documents released by WikiLeaks suggest), starting a new arms race may not take Medvedev to the head of the class.

Sources

Al Jazeera English

Coverage of Medvedev address by Russia Today

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