Medvedev warns of new arms race

Russia's president says tension with West could escalate unless agreement on missile defence is reached.

    Medvedev wants an equal say for Russia in the European missile defence system [Reuters/RIA Novosti/Kremlin]

    Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, has warned that a new arms race could erupt if Russia and the West could not agree on building a missile defence system.

    Speaking at his annual state of the nation address on Tuesday, Medvedev said questions remained about the proposed missile shield, which Russia has agreed to work on with Nato.

    "In the coming decade we face the following alternatives: Either we reach agreement on missile defence and create a full-fledged joint mechanism of co-operation, or ... a new round of the arms race will begin," he said.

    "And we will have to take a decision about the deployment of new offensive weapons. It is clear that this scenario would be very grave."

    Earlier this month Russia and Nato agreed in Lisbon to look into ways in which the two could work together on a new continental shield, which the Kremlin has spent years resisting.

    Countering perceptions

    Medvedev has demanded that Russia be handed an equal say in the system's operations - a request that would require a never-before seen degree of military co-operation and intelligence sharing between Moscow and the West.

    But the two sides have failed to agree on a list of countries that pose a threat, with the US identifying Iran and North Korea, two nations that Russia sees as relatively harmless in the near future.

    Medvedev's comments come a day after secret US diplomatic documents released by WikiLeaks said the Russian president played "Robin to Putin's Batman", suggesting the prime minister and former president remains in charge of the country.

    Neave Barker, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Moscow said Tuesday's address "countered, to an extent, perceptions that it’s really Medvedev's predecessor Vladimir Putin who's actually in charge".

    "This is an attempt to show the nation that he is a capable leader who makes his own decisions - decisions that are no worse or even better than those made by Putin," Alexander Konovalov, head of the Strategic Assessment Institute said.

    But others said Medvedev's comments masked a serious Russian concern: that the shield could one day be transformed into an offensive system that rains down missiles and even nuclear bombs.

    "Medvedev wants a legally-binding agreement that says that the European interceptors will never be aimed at Russia,"  Pavel Felgenhauer, a military analyst told the AFP news agency.

    He said that Russia is concerned that Nato could develop this capability by about 2025, too soon for Moscow to develop any meaningful response. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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