Putin: Arms race underway since US pullout from ABM Treaty

The United States triggered an arms race after its unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty almost two decades ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin says.

The weapon race between Russia and the US is on the move after Washington’s withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, Putin stated on Wednesday at a plenary session of the Russian Energy Week.

“The arms race is on the march, unfortunately. And it has started after the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty,” the Russian president added.

Putin recalled that back in 2003 he urged the US not to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. 

He noted that “this is a fundamental thing, the cornerstone of global security. What is the ABM Treaty? This is not just protection, it is an attempt to gain strategic advantages by de-energizing the nuclear potential of a probable opponent, that is, ours”.

“What should we do in response? Either create the same system, which costs a lot of money and may be not so efficient, or establish another system that will certainly outperform the ABM Treaty,” the head of the state went on to say. 

“And I said that we would do it. The American partners replied that their missile defense system was not against [Russia], so we could do what we want, and [the US] would proceed from the assumption that this was not against it. And we did it, so what is the problem? And now [the US] does not like it,” the president added.

“We are ready to consider the existing circumstances and hold a constructive dialogue in this direction,” Putin concluded.

The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the USSR and the US was signed in Moscow on May 26, 1972. However, it was terminated on June 13, 2002, following the unilateral US withdrawal.

On NATO, Putin said Russia is always ready for direct talks with NATO, but has no plans of delivering reports to any side about military drills on its own territory.

“We are ready to hold direct talks with NATO,” Putin stated, adding, “However, if speaking about our soldiers, I must say that they are deployed on the territory of Russia.”

“It is true that we recently held military drills, the Zapad-2021 [strategic military exercise], and it was a large-scale military exercise,” he continued, stressing, “I reiterate that we are holding our [military] exercises on the territory of our own country.”

“There is nothing strange about it and we are not obliged of filing reports in this regard to any other party,” Putin added.

The Russian president also said that the US and NATO military forces regularly hold combat drills not on their territories, including near the state borders of Russia.

“In fact, it is our partners, who breach all earlier reached agreements, including on the measures of trust in Europe,” Putin stated, adding, “It also goes for NATO’s expansion to the East and I have repeatedly pointed out to this fact.”

“This also relates to certain imbalances in the Baltic states that are excluded from any troop counts,” the Russian president said.

Putin also recalled that the United States exited earlier from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM), Open Skies and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaties.

“We did not do it. It was what our American partners did,” Putin stated.

On energy crisis, Russia insists on the need for an honest and open dialogue with European countries and is ready to work to prevent problems in the energy markets of Europe, Putin said.

“What is happening today in the energy markets of Europe is, to a certain extent, a man-made result of short-sighted policy. But these are their problems. We are ready to participate in preventing such problems. We just need, I repeat, an honest and open dialogue,” he added.

Putin noted that Russia does not stop working with European partners. 

“And it seems to me that there is an understanding that this frank, transparent dialogue needs to be established, but we will see how this will happen in reality,” Putin concluded.

On Afghanistan, Putin said the United States ignored the history and culture of the Afghan people, which entailed a tragic result.

“Freedom and democracy cannot but be linked with the culture and traditions of a certain people. The United States intruded into Afghanistan in defiance of the traditions, culture and history of the Afghan people. The result was tragic,” he added.

Putin stressed that US interference in Afghanistan had brought about a colossal upsurge of terrorism in the region and around the world.

The Taliban movement launched a massive operation for establishing control of Afghanistan after the United States last spring declared the intention to pull out its troops. On August 15, President Ashraf Ghani stepped down and left the country, while the Taliban entered Kabul without encountering resistance. The Western countries by August 31 had completed the evacuation of their citizens and Afghans who had worked for them.

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