SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 20 January 2022, Thursday |

Putin warns West: Moscow has ‘red line’ about Ukraine, NATO

Russian President Vladimir Putin cautioned NATO on Tuesday against sending soldiers and weapons to Ukraine, saying it would be a red line for Russia and would result in a harsh response.

In response to Western fears over Russia’s purported desire to invade Ukraine, Putin stated that Moscow is equally concerned about NATO exercises near its borders.

Speaking with members of an online investing community. Putin stated that NATO’s eastward expansion has put Russia’s key security interests in jeopardy. He voiced worries that NATO may one day exploit Ukrainian territory to put missiles capable of reaching Moscow in under five minutes.

“The appearance of such threats signifies a’red line’ for us,” Putin stated. “I hope it does not come to that, and that common sense and responsibility for their own nations and the global community finally triumph.”

He went on to say that Russia has been compelled to create new weapons in order to combat the mounting threats.

“How should we proceed?” Putin stated. “We’d need to create something comparable to target people who pose a threat to us.” And we can do it right now.”

He claimed that a new hypersonic missile due to enter service with the Russian navy early next year will be able to reach targets in comparable time.

“It would likewise take only five minutes to reach those who give commands,” Putin explained.

The Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, which can travel at nine times the speed of sound and has a range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), has completed a series of testing, the most recent on Monday.

This month, Ukrainian and Western officials voiced concern that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine may indicate Moscow’s intention to attack its former Soviet neighbor. On Tuesday, NATO foreign ministers cautioned Russia that further destabilizing Ukraine would be a costly mistake.

The Kremlin has argued that such an objective does not exist, and has accused Ukraine and its Western allies of fabricating such accusations to conceal their own supposedly aggressive intentions.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, after the country’s Kremlin-friendly president was deposed by large demonstrations, and it also backed a separatist rebellion in Ukraine’s east.

A jump in cease-fire breaches in the east and a Russian army concentration near Ukraine fuelled war worries earlier this year, but tensions eased when Moscow withdrew the majority of its units following drills in April.

Putin said that in order to prevent tensions, Russia and the West should reach agreements that protect each party’s security interests.

“The issue is not whether to send soldiers or not, whether to go to war or not, but to construct a more equitable and stable development while taking into consideration the security concerns of all international parties,” he said when asked whether Russia will attack Ukraine. “If we work hard enough for it, no one will be afraid of threats.”

The Russian leader expressed concern about NATO maneuvers near its borders, citing a recent exercise involving US strategic bombers.

“Strategic bombers carrying precise weaponry and capable of delivering nuclear bombs were flying as close to our border as 20 kilometers (12 miles”),” Putin claimed. “That poses a threat to us.”

Following the deployment of Russian soldiers near Ukraine earlier this year, Putin and US President Joe Biden met in Geneva in June and agreed to establish a discussion on strategic stability and cybersecurity. Putin praised the cybersecurity talks between Russian and US specialists on Tuesday, adding that “much like with the epidemic, it’s vital to pool efforts to work effectively.”

When asked about reports of a Biden-Putin phone call next month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday that she doesn’t have “anything to predict or preview at this point,” adding that “obviously, we remain in touch as a follow-up to the summit this summer, at a high level with Russian counterparts.”

In response to a query on the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Psaki stated, “we’re profoundly worried about the heightened rhetoric, about the reported military buildup on the border.”

When questioned about Biden running for a second term in Russia, Putin stated it would benefit US political stability. The Russian president drew a connection to his own reelection campaign.

Even though Putin has not chosen whether to run for re-election before his current term expires in 2024, he has stated that the prospect of his remaining in power has aided Russia’s stability.

The 69-year-old president has remained in charge for more than two decades, the longest tenure of any Kremlin leader since Soviet tyrant Josef Stalin. Putin’s prior term limitations were reset by constitutional revisions enacted in 2020, allowing him to run for president two more times and remain in power until 2036.

“In accordance with the constitution, I have the right to run for re-election, but I haven’t decided whether to do so or not,” Putin stated. “However, just the presence of such right stabilizes the domestic political environment.”

When asked about China’s nuclear development, Putin stated that Russia is unconcerned, adding that Moscow-Beijing ties are a “key component of world stability.”