Putin warns of new Cuban missile crisis
Mark Tran and agencies
Friday October 26, 2007
Vladimir Putin today compared the proposed US defence shield to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis that pushed the US and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war.
"Analogous actions by the Soviet Union when it deployed rockets on Cuba provoked the Cuban missile crisis," the Russian president said after an EU-Russia summit in Portugal.
"For us, technologically, the situation is very similar. On our borders such threats to our country are being created."
Earlier, the commander of Russia's rocket forces said his country was capable of quickly turning out short and medium-range nuclear missiles.
"If there is a political decision to make such a class of missile, then it is obvious that they will be made in Russia in the near future because we have everything we need," General Nikolai Solovtsov was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying.
"Today we are in [arms control] agreements so we act strictly within those agreements."
Mr Putin this month told the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, that Russia would find it difficult to stay in the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty (INF), signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan in December 1987.
That milestone treaty obliged the US and Russia to destroy all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of between 300 to 3,300 miles. The two scrapped 2,692 missiles as a result of the treaty.
Russian military officials and politicians now describe the INF treaty as a relic of the cold war because it began as a bilateral treaty limiting only the US and Russia, plus most of the successor states of the Soviet Union.
Other countries such as North Korea, Iran, Israel, India, and Pakistan have since started building arsenals of intermediate-range missiles. None are constrained by the INF treaty.
American plans to build elements of a missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland have particularly angered Russia.
Mr Putin, who has significantly boosted Russian defence spending, said the west has taken advantage of Russia's willingness to strike arms deals in the 1990s to strengthen its defences in subsequent years at Moscow's expense. In retaliation, Mr Putin announced plans to withdraw from the conventional forces in Europe treaty.
In the 1962 crisis, the Soviet Union stationed nuclear missiles in Cuba, 78 miles from Florida, to the consternation of the US.
President John F Kennedy ordered a naval blockade, ignoring advice from some of his military advisers to launch an air strike against targets in Cuba. The confrontation only ended after the then Russian leader, Nikita Khrushchev, agreed to withdraw the missiles.
Mr Putin added: "Thank God, we do not have any Cuban missile crisis now and this is above all because of the fundamental way relations between Russia and the United States and Europe have changed."