Russia will respond to NATO expansion to keep strategic balance - Putin
By encircling Russia with missile defense systems, NATO undermines the strategic balance and fuels a new arms race, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Oliver Stone, calling NATO's build-up a "big, glaring mistake."
In the second part of Oliver Stone's Showtime series 'The Putin Interviews' aired on Tuesday night, the Russian president called NATO's activities at Russia's doorstep hostile and a major security challenge, adding that Moscow would not stand idly by.
"There are two threats here for us, for Russia. The first is the deployment of missile interceptors in the immediate vicinity of our borders in eastern European countries, and the second threat is that anti-missile launch pads could be converted into launch pads for attack missiles," Putin told Stone.
Putin noted that NATO shows no signs of slowing down, with plans to install missile defense launch pads on warships deployed to seas bordering Russia, and in Alaska.
The rampant military activity at its border is "another big, glaring mistake" made by the US, as it drags both countries into a new arms race, Putin said. NATO's saber-rattling leaves Russia no other choice than to "give a suitable response to all of these actions," he said, noting that Moscow's countermeasures will be "much cheaper," if not quite as technologically advanced.
"It may be [rough]... but it will be effective. We shall preserve this so-called strategic balance."
In a preview aired ahead of the launch on Monday, Putin cautioned against an all-out war, pointing out that in a hot war between the US and Russia, both will end up on the losing side, as hardy anyone will survive.
Putin argued that past claims by the US government that by pulling out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (AMB), it was seeking to contain Iran, have proved to be unsubstantiated, since the nuclear deal between Iran, the US, and five world powers is still in effect, while the development of NATO's missile program does not seem to slow down.
In 2002, the US withdrew from the treaty, which guaranteed that neither the US nor Russia would be allowed an advantage in neutralizing the nuclear deterrent of the other, citing threats to its national security from North Korea and Iran.
Putin has repeatedly slammed the US for its decision to unilaterally withdraw from the AMB treaty, arguing that it is bringing the world to the brink of a new Cold War.
"Iran has abandoned all nuclear military weapons programs. The United States agreed with it and signed the corresponding document. However, the missile defense program with its elements in Europe continues further. Against whom is it aimed?" Putin asked rhetorically, adding that he does not see any point in NATO expansion after the demise of the Soviet Union and with the Iran deal now in place.
In a preview to the interview, Putin argues that once a country joins the US-led alliance, it gives up a significant part of its sovereignty, essentially turning into a "vassal."
"Once a country becomes a NATO member, it is hard to resist the pressures of the US. And all of a sudden any weapons system can be placed in this country," Putin told Stone, calling the alliance "an instrument of America's foreign policy."
In one of their conversations, Putin revealed that he once suggested to former-US President Bill Clinton that Russia become a part of NATO. While Clinton said that he "didn't mind," the American delegation was reportedly shocked by the idea, Putin said.