Putin warns against missile deployment

AFP
Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to deploy new missiles against Western capitals as he delivered a state of the nation address on Wednesday.
AFP
Putin warns against missile deployment
AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address in Moscow yesterday. Putin warned the United States against deploying any new missiles in Europe, and also promised help for his country’s less well-off.

Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to deploy new missiles against Western capitals as he delivered a state of the nation address on Wednesday.

He also reached out to Russians with promises of improved living conditions.

The long-time Russian leader warned Washington against deploying any new missiles in Europe following the collapse of a key Cold War-era treaty, saying Moscow would consider it a “serious threat.”

“I’m saying this clearly and openly, Russia will be forced to deploy weapons that can be used ... against the decision-making centers that are behind the missile systems which threaten us,” Putin said.

The United States and Russia raised fears of a new arms race when they announced earlier this year they were pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, a 1987 deal that limited medium-range missiles.

Washington was the first to announce its withdrawal, accusing Moscow of developing new weapons that violated the treaty, but Putin dismissed the US claims as “far-fetched.”

Putin also reeled off a list of weapons programs that he said would give Russia a military edge over the US.

This included the development of the Zircon missile with a range of more than 1,000 kilometers, testing of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, the deployment this spring of the Poseidon underwater drone system, and the recent start of production of Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles.

Most of yesterday’s speech focused on promises to address poor living standards.

“We cannot wait, the situation must change for the better now,” Putin told assembled lawmakers from Russia’s lower house State Duma and upper house Federation Council.

“Within this year (Russians) should feel changes,” he said.

Putin lamented that some 19 million Russians were living below the poverty line, saying: “This is too much ... the state should help.”

Putin focused in particular on help for Russian families, pointing to a demographic crisis that has seen birth rates fall drastically since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Last year, the government’s statistics agency said the country’s birth rate had fallen by 11 percent in 2017 to the lowest level in a decade.

“The incomes of Russian families should of course rise,” he said, promising new child benefits and lower taxes for larger families.

Putin, 66, appeared calm and confident as usual during his 90-minute speech.

He promised new child benefits and lower taxes for larger families.

Putin also promised new investments in health care and a major anti-cancer program, financial aid for home buyers and further investments in education.

He spent a significant amount of time criticizing officials for their handling of a waste-management crisis that has seen Russians outside Moscow protesting at plans to send the capital’s rubbish to provincial landfills.

“We must form a civilized and safe waste-management system,” Putin said, promising efforts to close dumps and boost recycling, which is nearly non-existent in Russia.

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