This speech transcript was originally published on the website of the Kremlin.
Citizens of Russia,
I address you today in connection with the situation concerning the NATO countries’ missile defence system in Europe.
Russia’s relations with the USA and NATO in the missile defence area have a long and complicated history. I remember that when US President Barack Obama revised his predecessor’s plans to build a missile defence system in Europe in September 2009, we welcomed this as a positive step.
This decision paved the way to our being able to conclude the important New START Treaty which was signed not too long ago and which clearly states the intrinsic link between strategic offensive weapons and missile defence. Let me state that again, this was a major achievement.
Subsequently, however, the USA began carrying out a new missile defence plan that foresaw the creation of a missile defence system in stages. This specifically raises concerns in Russia. It would eventually see the deployment of US missiles and military capability in close proximity to Russia’s borders and in the neighbouring waters.
At the NATO-Russia Council summit in Lisbon a year ago, I proposed developing a joint sector-based missile defence system in Europe where every country would be responsible for a particular sector.
Furthermore, we were ready to discuss additional modifications to the system, taking into account our NATO partners’ views. Our only goal was to preserve the basic principle that Europe does not need new dividing lines, but rather, a common security perimeter with Russia’s equal and legally enshrined participation.
It is my conviction that this approach would create unique opportunities for Russia and NATO to build a genuine strategic partnership. We are to replace the friction and confrontation in our relations with the principles of equality, indivisible security, mutual trust, and predictability.
Regrettably, the USA and other NATO partners have not showed enough willingness to move in this direction. Rather than showing themselves willing to hear and understand our concerns over the European missile defence system at this stage, they simply repeat that these plans are not directed against Russia and that there is no point for us to be concerned. That is the position of the executive authorities, but legislators in some countries openly state, the whole system is against Russia.
But our requests that they set this out on paper in the form of clear legal obligations are firmly rejected. We do hold a reasonable position. We are willing to discuss the status and content of these obligations, but our colleagues should understand that these obligations must have substance and not be just empty words. They must be worded not as promises and reassurances, but as specific military-technical criteria that will enable Russia to judge to what extent US and NATO action in the missile defence area correspond to their declarations and steps, whether our interests are being impinged on, and to what extent the strategic nuclear balance is still intact. This is the foundation of the present-day security.
We will not agree to take part in a programme that in a short while, in some 6 to 8 years’ time could weaken our nuclear deterrent capability. The European missile defence programme is already underway and work on it is, regrettably, moving rapidly in Poland, Turkey, Romania, and Spain. We find ourselves facing a fait accompli.
Of course we will continue the dialogue with the USA and NATO on this issue. I agreed on this with US President Barack Obama when we met recently, and on that occasion again stated our concerns very clearly. There is still time to reach an understanding. Russia has the political will to reach the agreements needed in this area, agreements that would open a new chapter in our relations with the USA and NATO.
If our partners show an honest and responsible attitude towards taking into account Russia’s legitimate security interests, I am sure we can come to an agreement. But if we are asked to ‘cooperate’ or in fact act against our own interests it will be difficult to establish common ground. In such a case we would be forced to take a different response. We will decide our actions in accordance with the actual developments in events at each stage of the missile defence programme’s implementation.
In this connection, I have made the following decisions:
First, I am instructing the Defence Ministry to immediately put the missile attack early warning radar station in Kaliningrad on combat alert.
Second, protective cover of Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons will be reinforced as a priority measure under the programme to develop our air and space defences.
Third, the new strategic ballistic missiles commissioned by the Strategic Missile Forces and the Navy will be equipped with advanced missile defence penetration systems and new highly-effective warheads.
Fourth, I have instructed the Armed Forces to draw up measures for disabling missile defence system data and guidance systems if need be. These measures will be adequate, effective, and low-cost.
Fifth, if the above measures prove insufficient, the Russian Federation will deploy modern offensive weapon systems in the west and south of the country, ensuring our ability to take out any part of the US missile defence system in Europe. One step in this process will be to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad Region.
Other measures to counter the European missile defence system will be drawn up and implemented as necessary.
If the situation continues to develop not to Russia’s favour, we reserve the right to discontinue further disarmament and arms control measures.
Besides, given the intrinsic link between strategic offensive and defensive arms, conditions for our withdrawal from the New START Treaty could also arise, and this option is enshrined in the treaty.
But let me stress the point that we are not closing the door on continued dialogue with the USA and NATO on missile defence and on practical cooperation in this area. We are ready for that.
However, this can be achieved only through establishing a clear legal base for cooperation that would guarantee that our legitimate interests and concerns are taken into account. We are open to a dialogue and we hope for a reasonable and constructive approach from our Western partners.