Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his meeting with Russian Ambassadors in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, June 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, pool)
MOSCOW — NATO’s military buildup near Russia’s borders has upset military parity in Europe, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday, adding that Russia will take retaliatory measures without entering an arms race.
Putin said that NATO is openly showing its anti-Russian intentions by deploying forces in Poland and the Baltics and building missile defense sites.
“All that is aimed at undermining a military parity that has formed over decades,” Putin said in a foreign policy speech before top Russian diplomats.
NATO has rotated weapons and troops to reassure its eastern members amid tensions with Russia over the Ukrainian crisis.
Russia has described NATO’s U.S.-led missile shield as a top security threat, rejecting Washington’s claims that the shield is intended to fend off the Iranian missile threat.
Putin noted that the U.S. is developing the system despite last year’s nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers. “We said from the start that it was a lie, just a pretext,” Putin said. “And the reality has proven it.”
Putin said that Russia will make an “adequate response” to NATO’s buildup, but added that it will not be drawn into a costly arms race.
“We aren’t going to succumb to militarist frenzy,” Putin said. “But we won’t show weakness and will always be able to reliably protect ourselves.”
Turning to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, he warned that the “traumatic effect from the referendum results will be felt for quite a long time.” Putin added that Moscow remains committed to developing a common economic space with the EU “from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”
He identified the top challenge to Russia’s security as the terror threat, saying the Islamic State group operating in Syria and Iraq has nurtured plans to expand to many regions, including former Soviet nations in Central Asia.
The Russian leader hailed the Russia- and U.S.-brokered cease-fire in Syria as an example of a joint action needed to combat the terrorist threat.
Putin also said that Russia wants a quick settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, but argued that it depends on Ukraine meeting its end of a 2015 peace deal for eastern Ukraine.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russia-backed insurgents and Ukrainian forces erupted in April 2014, weeks after Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. The Minsk peace deal helped reduce hostilities, but political settlement has stalled.
© Copyright 2016 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.