Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Romania and Poland could be caught in the ‘crosshairs’ of Russian rockets for hosting the U.S. missile shield that Moscow considers a threat.
Putin said that his country has “no choice” but to target Romania, which had recently opened a NATO missile defense base, and Poland, which plans to do so within two years.
During a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens on Friday, Putin “If yesterday people simply did not know what it means to be in the crosshairs in those areas of Romania, then today we will be forced to carry out certain measures to ensure our security. And it will be the same with Poland”
Putin did not specify what actions Russia would take, but did insist that it was not making the first step, but only responding to moves by Washington.
The Russian President was referring to the Deveselu facility that officially became operational in May after nearly a decade and $800 million of planning and construction.
“At the moment the interceptor missiles installed have a range of 500 kilometers, soon this will go up to 1000 kilometers, and worse than that, they can be rearmed with 2400km-range offensive missiles even today, and it can be done by simply switching the software, so that even the Romanians themselves won’t know,” said Putin, who is in Greece for a two-day tour.
“We have the capability to respond. The whole world saw what our medium-range sea-based missiles are capable of [in Syria]. But we violate no agreements. And our ground-based Iskander missiles have also proven themselves as superb,” continued Putin.
Russia’s political and military leadership has repeatedly spoken out against the missile defense shield since it was proposed during the George W. Bush administration, and Putin reiterated that Moscow does not believe the European part of it is targeted against a potential threat from Iran.
“NATO fend us off with vague statements that this is no threat to Russia… That the whole project began as a preventive measure against Iran’s nuclear program. Where is that program now? It doesn’t exist,” said Putin, referring to the nuclear treaty that was concluded between the world’s major powers and Tehran last year. “We have been saying since the early 2000s that we will have to react somehow to your moves to undermine international security. No one is listening to us.”
Alexis Tsipras in his turn reiterated that Russia is a player in the European security theater and that current attempts to alienate Moscow with measures such as sanctions reminds him of Cold War times.
“European security cannot be achieved without cooperation and dialogue with Russia,” Tsipras said in an interview with Sputnik. “I don’t believe that we can move forward or ensure compliance with international law while caught in a vicious circle of sanctions, militarization and Cold War rhetoric.”
President Putin arrived in Greece on Friday for a two-day visit that involves meetings with his Greek counterpart, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and other top-level discussions.
It is the Russian president’s first EU trip in seven months, and comes just weeks before Brussels decides on whether to extend EU sanctions against Russia.