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Putin says Russia has to respond to other countries’ military potential buildup

Putin stressed he did not agree with the assertion that Russia was unilaterally beginning the militarization of the Kuril Islands

ST. PETERSBURG, June 1. /TASS/. Russia’s military potential buildup is Moscow’s reaction to external changes, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with the heads of world news agencies on Thursday.

"As for the buildup of our military potentials in the Russian Far East and on the islands [the Kuril Islands] in particular, this is not Russia’s initiative, like in the other part of the world, in Europe," Putin said.

"NATO bases are moving closer to our western borders and the infrastructure is moving closer, incidents are increasing and do we have simply to sit weak-willed and look at this? No, this will not be the case and we are responding accordingly. The same is taking place in the East," the Russian president said.

The Russian leader cited the example of two aircraft carriers moving towards the Russian border one after another while a third aircraft carrier was still approaching.

"Well, an aircraft carrier has come and gone but elements of anti-missile defense are being created and we are very much concerned about this and we have been constantly speaking about this for ten years: this is undermining the strategic balance in the world," Putin said, noting that the public was silent while elements of the US anti-missile defense were emerging in Alaska, South Korea and so on.

"This is a challenge for us," the Russian leader said.

Putin stressed he did not agree with the assertion that Russia was unilaterally beginning the militarization of the Kuril Islands.

"No, this is simply a forced response to what is taking place in the region," the Russian president said.

"In this case, like in the case with Iran, it is possible to refer to the nuclear and missile threat in North Korea but I don’t think that it is North Korea that matters," Putin said.

As the Russian leader noted, if North Korea announces tomorrow about terminating all tests and curtails its missile program, the construction of the US missile shield system will all the same continue under a different pretext or without any pretexts at all.

Double standards trigger arms race

The world community’s silence on missile defense and double standards trigger the arms race, according to Putin.

"I am the only one who is talking about it, while the others are keeping silent, as if no one understands what it is all about. Of course they do, they understand what it is all about! Why are you all silent? All of you are quiet, things are getting worse, and this indeed is triggering an arms race," Putin addressed the world leaders, commenting on the missile defense expansion.

According to the Russian leader, this situation makes Russia keep searching for a way to respond. "We think that we should beef up our systems to counter the ABM system, which is, in fact, another turn in the arms race. The same is true for the Kuril Islands: we think about how to provide safety there and how to neutralize threats at distant approaches."

Putin reminded the audience that when the world "was talking about the American missile defense system in Europe, they always mentioned Iran, saying it was done to counter the Iranian nuclear program and the threat coming from Iran." "Now we’ve got a contract signed with Iran, there is no danger, the world community has confirmed that the control is up and running, and the IAEA confirms all of it. Still, the missile defense system build-up continues at a rapid pace," the president argued. "Against whom then?"

Demilitarization of Kurils

Demilitarization of the Kuril islands will be possible only if the other countries in the region reciprocate, Putin said at a meeting with the heads of leading world agencies in reply to a question from Kyodo.

"Is it possible to achieve demilitarization of the Kuril Islands? Of course, it is! But demilitarization of the islands alone would not be enough. We should give thought to easing tensions in the region in general," Putin said. "This is the sole way of achieving fundamental, long-term agreements. What these agreements can be like is hard to tell for now. But I believe they might be possible."

At the same time he remarked that Russia was perfectly aware that in case of a hypothetical situation in which the Kuril Islands might be transferred to Japan’s control US troops might be stationed there.

"As for the theoretic possibility US troops might emerge on the islands, if it is assumed the sovereignty over the islands might be transferred to Japan - yes, such a possibility does exist. It stems from the treaty (US-Japanese) and, incidentally, from the related protocols. We are not shown them, but we do know their content by and large," Putin said. "I will not discuss the details now, although I know what the details are. There does exist the possibility of deploying US troops there."

"Of course, one may ask if we are going to worsen relations with the United States or if this (theoretic possibility of US troops’ deployment) is scaring. No, we are not going to worsen relations and we are not afraid of anything," Putin said. At the same time he pointed to the continuing Russophobic campaign in the United States.

"In what direction the situation will be evolving is anyone’s guess. This does not depend on us. We are not the ones who initiated that process," Putin said. "The situation may look fine today, but even the theoretic possibility that tomorrow there may appear some bases or missile defense components is utterly unacceptable to us."