MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday sternly warned NATO against deploying its troops and weapons to Ukraine, saying it represents a red line for Russia and would trigger a strong response.
Speaking to participants of an online investment forum. Putin said that NATO‘s eastward expansion has threatened Russia‘s core security interests. He expressed concern that NATO could eventually use the Ukrainian territory to deploy missiles capable of reaching Moscow in just five minutes.
“The emergence of such threats represents a ‘red line’ for us,” Putin said. “I hope that it will not get to that and common sense and responsibility for their own countries and the global community will eventually prevail.”
“What should we do?” Putin said. “We would need to develop something similar to target those who threaten us. And we can do that even now.”
He said a new hypersonic missile that is set to enter service with the Russian navy early next year would be capable of reaching targets in comparable time.
“It would also need just five minutes to reach those who issue orders,” Putin said.
The Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound to a range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), has undergone a series of tests, most recently Monday.
Ukrainian and Western officials have expressed worries this month that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. NATO foreign ministers warned Russia on Tuesday that any attempt to further destabilize Ukraine would be a costly mistake.
The Kremlin has insisted it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 after the country’s Kremlin-friendly president was driven from power by mass protests and also threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency that broke out in Ukraine’s east.
Earlier this year, a spike in cease-fire violations in the east and a Russian troop concentration near Ukraine fueled war fears, but tensions abated when Moscow pulled back the bulk of its forces after maneuvers in April.
“The matter is not whether to send troops or not, go to war or not, but to establish a more fair and stable development and taking into account security interests of all international players,” he replied when asked if Russia was going to invade Ukraine. “If we sincerely strive for that, no one will fear any threats.”
“Strategic bombers, which carry precision weapons and are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, were flying as close as 20 kilometers (12 miles) to our border,” Putin said. “That represents a threat for us.”
After the buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine early this year, Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden held a June summit in Geneva, where they agreed to launch a dialogue on strategic stability and cybersecurity. Putin on Tuesday hailed the cybersecurity discussions between Russian and U.S. experts, saying “just as with the pandemic, it’s necessary to pool efforts to work efficiently.”
The 69-year-old president has been in power for more than two decades - longer than any other Kremlin leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Constitutional amendments approved in 2020 reset Putin’s previous term limits, allowing him to run for president two more times and hold onto power until 2036.
“In line with the constitution, I have the right to get elected to seek a new term, but I haven’t yet made up my mind whether to do it or not,” Putin said. “But the very existence of that right already stabilizes the domestic political situation.”
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.