Monday, January 22, 2018

Russia criticizes NATO missile plan

MOSCOW — Three days before his meeting with President Barack Obama at a nuclear security summit in South Korea, outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reiterated his objections Friday to NATO's missile defense plan, saying it would undermine nuclear equality and demanding written proof that Russia is not the ultimate target.

The hard-line armaments minister, Dmitry Rogozin, forcefully seconded Medvedev's arguments, made at an international security conference. Rogozin said the NATO system would be aimed at Russia and Russian missiles and as such is a threat to Russian sovereignty.

Kremlin aides have been predicting a thaw in relations with the United States following the presidential election here earlier this month, but Friday's meeting made clear that if one comes, it won't be over missile defense. Medvedev plans to raise the issue in his Monday meeting with Obama, according to Russian news agencies.

Medvedev also took shots at the West over Syria, although Russia this week agreed to back a U.N. resolution on the fighting there. On threats against Syria and Iran, he said, "We see lame logic and the psychology of war."

He criticized "the very active media campaign" against Syrian leader Bashar Assad and said the crisis there should be handled by experts, not journalists.

"We shouldn't allow propaganda attacks to undermine ... international law," he said.

Western participants in Friday's conference chided the Russians for their adamant stand on missile defense.

"I am no enthusiast for the American program," said Francois Heisbourg, chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "But you allow it to overdetermine every other aspect of your relations with the United States. You talk as though the credibility of your nuclear deterrent were somehow at stake."

It isn't, he said, and as he gestured toward the chair just vacated by Rogozin, he suggested that Russian policy is as driven by the military-industrial complex as U.S. policy is.

"Do you really want your missile-makers, and your warhead-makers, to be in the driver's seat?" he asked.

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