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Putin Warns U.S. of Potential Russian Nuclear Buildup

Russian Tactical Nuclear Missile on Mobile LauncherDec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said it would take a "very dumb nature" for the U.S. not to ratify a nuclear-arms treaty as he reiterated a warning to build up Russian nuclear forces without agreement on a joint missile- defense system, CNN reported.

Russia will deploy strike forces and nuclear technology against "new threats" posed by U.S. missile-defense plans in Europe unless the North Atlantic Treaty Organization accepts Russian proposals for a joint missile shield, Putin said in an interview taped yesterday and to be aired later today.

If the initiative gets a negative response, "Russia will have to ensure its own security through different means and ways," Putin said, according to the English translation of his comments.

President Dmitry Medvedev yesterday warned of a new arms race within the next decade unless Russia reaches an agreement with the U.S. and its allies on missile defense. Without such an accord, Russia "will have to" deploy new missiles, Medvedev said in his annual state-of-the-nation address.

Russia offered at the NATO summit in Lisbon last month to take part in a missile-defense system with the trans-Atlantic military alliance, though it insisted on being an equal partner. President Barack Obama's initiative to "reset" ties with Russia has faced a setback since Republican gains in the Nov. 2 midterm elections stalled ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Iskander Missiles

Two years ago, in his first state-of-the-nation address, Medvedev said he would deploy nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland, to "neutralize" a planned U.S. missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Obama has since scrapped plans for that project.

The Wall Street Journal yesterday cited unidentified U.S. officials as saying Russia had moved short-range tactical nuclear weapons closer to the borders of NATO member states as recently as this spring.

General Nikolai Makarov, head of Russia's general Staff, denied the report. "This is a fairy tale," he told reporters in Moscow yesterday.

Obama in September 2009 canceled former President George W. Bush's proposed missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic in favor of a more flexible solution that opened the door to revisit Russian proposals for a joint system.

Training Mission

Even so, the U.S. deployed Patriot missile batteries and their crews to northern Poland in May for what the U.S. Army described as a two-year training mission. Russia's Foreign Ministry said at the time that the deployment wouldn't improve security or help build relations in the region.

Obama has appealed to the Senate to ratify the treaty this year because it will be more difficult to reach the required two-thirds vote after new Republican lawmakers take office in January. Medvedev said on Nov. 20 it would be "very unpleasant" if the Senate failed to approve the treaty, adding that he hoped legislators would take a "responsible" approach.

Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, the chamber's second-ranking Republican and one of his party's leading voices on nuclear- weapons policy, said on Nov. 16 that pressing business wouldn't allow full consideration before year's end of "the complex and unresolved issues related to START."

The treaty limits each side's strategic warheads to no more than 1,550, down from the 2,200 allowed previously, and sets a maximum of 800 land-, air- and sea-based launchers.

Russia has plans to modernize its tactical missile units, including those in Kaliningrad, with Iskander missiles, and "of course this is well-known to the Pentagon," said Pavel Felgenhauer Moscow-based defense analyst.

The Iskander, first tested in 1995, has a range of as much as 400 kilometers (250 miles), according to Jane's Information Group, which publishes information on global defense resources.

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