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President Putin on Russia's missile defence offer, June 11, 2007

Press Conference following the end of the G8 Summit, Heiligendamm, June 8, 2007

QUESTION (Associated Press): Mr President, you already spoke briefly about your initiative to establish a joint Russian-American radar station at Gabala. Could you explain where, according to your plan, would the interceptor missiles be based? And would your plan not lead to a deterioration in Russia's relations with Iran?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: My initiative and the proposals I made to our American partners go far beyond just setting up a radar station at Gabala. It seems to me I set these proposals out in quite some detail yesterday, but I am willing to go over them again if necessary. We do not need to build a radar station at Gabala - the station is already there and was built during the Soviet period. This is the whole point, and I do not think the idea would lead to a worsening in our relations with Iran because the station is already operating and has been operating for a long time now.

What is the basis and substance of our proposals? Our position is that our American partners' withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, which took place several years ago, was a serious mistake and will, as we said on earlier occasions, lead to destabilisation in international security. We said from the outset that we will not develop expensive weapons systems, but that the need to maintain the global strategic balance will oblige us to work on ways of penetrating a missile defence system. Our American colleagues responded by saying that this was alright because we are friends now, not enemies, and they said we could do as we please. Over these last years then we have developed just such a system for getting through missile defence systems. We already had this technology and have been working on improving it. But when we heard that these missile defence systems would be located in close proximity to our borders and would be supposedly targeting Iranian missiles that do not actually exist, we felt understandable concern. I draw to your attention the fact that it is not we, but our American friends who plan to develop missile defences against missiles that do not exist. There are no such missiles. Iran's missiles have a range of 1,400 kilometres, but it would take missiles with a range of 4,500-5,000 kilometres to reach Europe's southern borders, and Iran does not even have plans to manufacture such missiles at this point. That is one point. And there is another point. I would not be so quick to suspect the intentions of our neighbours, and Iran is one of Russia's neighbours. As one of the Iranian leaders said, Iran has no plans to attack Europe.

This is a matter of concern for Russia, understandably so, given that these plans constitute a threat to our own nuclear arsenal. Do you know where the danger of implementing such plans lies? If one side is under the illusion that it is protected from the risk of counter-strikes, the potential for aggressive action increases, and this could lead to serious conflict. I am saying this in general, not with any personal motives or designs.

Since the Second World War, peace in the world has been maintained through the strategic balance of forces. Upsetting this balance threatens international peace. As soon as we heard that two systems - a radar station in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland - were to be deployed close to our borders, our military experts began calculating the consequences for our country. We are convinced that this would negatively affect Russia's security and that of our citizens, and this forces us to think about steps we can take in response.

I stress this point that this is not a Russian initiative; these are counter-measures. What kind of counter-measures could we take? The prime concern, of course, is to neutralise the threats that arise for Russia, and this is why I say that yes, it seems we will have to target our missiles at these facilities. Such a step should not be seen as a surprise. It would be better not to provoke Russia into taking such action in the first place.

But I had a very encouraging conversation yesterday with the President of the United States. What we proposed was to use the Gabala radar station, which is located in Azerbaijan and is leased by Russia. This station fully covers the entire region that causes our American friends and colleagues' suspicion. If need be, we are ready to modernise this station. We do not see the need at this point, but we are ready to undertake such work. We are ready to transmit all necessary information in real time. This would do away with the need for our American friends to deploy strike groups in outer space, which in itself would constitute a major threat to international security. It would no longer be necessary to build a new radar station in the Czech Republic and to deploy interceptors in Poland. The interceptors could be deployed in the south instead. I am just speaking hypothetically now, and talks with the relevant countries would need to take place, but the interceptors could be deployed in countries allied to the United States through NATO, in Turkey, say, or even in Iraq. What was the war for, after all? At least some advantage could be gained from it all.

The interceptors could also be deployed on mobile platforms, on military vessels, for example. This would have the advantage of not destabilising the situation in Europe and would also cover the entire region that is a cause of concern for our American partners. It would also have the advantage of providing a missile defence shield for all rather than just a part of Europe. This is because such a system would be able to intercept and destroy missiles fired at European territory during the first stage of the trajectory, and this, in addition, means that the remains of destroyed missiles would fall not on European cities but into the sea. This is a serious matter because hunks of metal up to 30 centimetres across can not just punch a hole in the roof, but if they are falling at great speed, could rip through a five or seven storey building right down to the basement, and this is no joking matter.

If our proposals are carried out, the debris would fall in the sea instead. What else are we proposing? We propose that this project should not be a unilateral or even bilateral undertaking, but that a group of interested countries, including European countries, should work on it together. We propose carrying out a real assessment of the missile threats for the period through to 2020 and agreeing on what joint steps we can take to counter these threats. We propose agreeing on equal, democratic and mutually acceptable involvement in this system's command for all the participants. And finally, as I said to President of the United States George Bush, and at the press conference yesterday, we hope that no unilateral action will be taken until these consultations and talks have concluded. This will not create a delay of any kind because, as I said, Iran has no such missiles. Even if Iran were to begin developing such missiles, we would have timely warning, and even if we did not get any warning, we would soon find out when the first tests were carried out. We would see this, and U.S. satellites would see this. Four or five years go by from the time a missile is tested to the time it is actually commissioned and deployed by the armed forces. This is enough time to deploy any missile defence system anywhere in the world. So why destabilise the situation in Europe today? It seems to me that our proposals are entirely logical, justified, and are made in a spirit of partnership.

QUESTION (RIA Novosti): I would like a clarification. You suggested deploying interceptor missiles in southern Europe or on platforms. Which would be preferable? If they are deployed in Europe, would this not be to the detriment of Europe's security?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I think I have already given a sufficiently detailed response to this question, but to repeat once more: if our proposals are implemented, there would be no need to build new radars in Europe or to set up new bases for the interceptor missiles. It would be enough to deploy them on floating platforms, on military vessels, or on the territory of southern countries, including the United States' NATO allies. In this case, we would have no need to target our missiles at facilities of any kind in Europe or the United States. There would be simply no such need at all.

We are not going to deploy our own missiles in the Kaliningrad Region or move them closer to Russia's western borders.

QUESTION (Voice of America): Mr President, can you believe the Iranian regime when it says that it has no plans to develop missiles with a range of more than 4,000 kilometres?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: There is a concept that applies even to specific individuals - the presumption of innocence. If there are concerns regarding Iran, we try to clarify them and get explanations, including through existing international institutions, through the United Nations and the IAEA.

But as I already said, supposing there is a threat - and we are not rejecting this possibility outright; we do not see this threat, but we accept that it could potentially exist - we are proposing a concrete plan for joint action. I have just set out this plan and it is entirely acceptable. If our partners believe this threat exists, the implementation of our plan would completely neutralise it and there would be no need to complicate the global security situation and jeopardise security on the European continent...

Source: The Kremlin website, http://www.kremlin.ru.

© 2007 The Acronym Institute.