During a speech delivered on Tuesday at a board meeting of the Russian Defense Ministry, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “in the event of the continuation of the obviously aggressive line of our Western colleagues, we will take adequate retaliatory military-technical measures, and react toughly to unfriendly steps.”
The board meeting had been expanded this year to include top Russian commanders, representatives of government agencies, as well as public organizations. The Russian President stated that Moscow does not require any special conditions and stands for “equal and indivisible security in Europe.” Yet recent actions by Western allies, such as “the buildup of U.S. and NATO military forces directly on Russia’s borders, as well as by the holding of large-scale exercises, including unplanned ones, cause serious concern,” Putin said.
He went on to add that they “are extremely concerned about the deployment of elements of the US global missile defense system near Russia.” The comments were made in the wake of security proposals Russia communicated to the US, which include preventing NATO from placing offensive weapons in Eastern Europe. In an interview with the BBC on Monday, Dmitry Kiselev, director general of the Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, said that if Ukraine joins NATO or if the alliance decides to advance its military infrastructure in Ukraine, Moscow “will hold a gun to America’s head.” Russia has the military capability for that, he emphasized.
The Russian president underlined Kiselev’s worry, saying that if NATO infrastructure continues to advance along the border, the flight time of missiles will be reduced, thereby posing an obvious security threat to Ukraine..
Placing little faith in verbal assurances, Putin called for legally binding agreements. “We know the price of such verbal assurances, words, and promises,” he asserted.
In the event of a NATO refusal to discuss the security proposals, deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus would be considered, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday. The Minister’s proposition has been criticized as an ultimatum, an interpretation Vladimir Putin has denied.
On Wednesday, Russia’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, confirmed a sit-down of Russian and U.S. negotiators has been planned for early next year at which Moscow’s demand for Western guarantees—among them a halt to NATO’s expansion in Ukraine—will be on the table.
He went on to add that, under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Russia will enter into separate negotiations with NATO as well.