- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

MOSCOW — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia will build new weapons to offset the planned U.S. missile defense and urged Washington to share detailed data about its missile shield under a new arms control deal.

Mr. Putin’s remarks, posted on the Cabinet’s Web site, set a defiant tone and signaled new difficulties in talks between the two nations on a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expired on Dec. 5. Moscow and Washington had hoped to strike a deal before the end of the year, but problems persist.

Mr. Putin’s comments also showed that the former Russian president is continuing to shape Russian foreign policy, which under the constitution should be set by his successor, Dmitry Medvedev.

He said that the arms control talks were proceeding in a positive way and added that Mr. Medvedev and President Obama eventually will decide whether to strike an arms deal.

But Mr. Putin warned that a missile defense system would give the United States an edge and could erode the deterrent value of Russia’s nuclear forces.

“The problem is that our American partners are developing missile defenses, and we are not,” Mr. Putin said.

“But the issues of missile defense and offensive weapons are closely interconnected… . There could be a danger that having created an umbrella against offensive strike systems, our partners may come to feel completely safe. After the balance is broken, they will do whatever they want and grow more aggressive.”

Mr. Obama removed a major irritant in relations earlier this year by scrapping the previous administration’s plans to place interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic — deployments Russia treated as a threat.

The Kremlin has praised Mr. Obama for the decision, but Russian officials also have said they want to know more about the sea- and land-based systems the United States plans to put in place instead.

Mr. Putin said that Russia has no intention to build a missile shield of its own but will have to develop new offensive weapons to offset a future U.S. missile defense.

“In order to preserve a balance, while we aren’t planning to build a missile defense of our own, as it’s very expensive and its efficiency is not quite clear yet, we have to develop offensive strike systems,” he said.

Mr. Putin added that the United States must share information about their missile defense plans if they want Russia to provide data on its new weapons.

“They should give us all the information about the missile defense, and we will be ready then to provide some information about offensive weapons,” Mr. Putin said.

Russia had been pushing for an explicit link in the new treaty between offensive weapons and missile defense. A joint statement in July by Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Obama linked the two, but the United States will be unlikely to accept any missile defense restrictions.

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