Russia said it’s working with China to counter U.S. plans to expand its missile-defense network, which the two nations see as targeting their military assets.
The upgrades aim to give Washington the ability to launch a nuclear strike “with impunity,” Lieutenant General Viktor Poznikhir of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff said Tuesday at a security forum in Xiangshan, China, according to a transcript of his speech posted on the Defense Ministry’s website. The Asian neighbors this year conducted a joint missile-defense exercise of their computer command staff, he said.
“We are working together on ways to minimize possible damage to the security of our countries,” Poznikhir said. “The illusion of invulnerability and impunity under the guise of missile defense will encourage Washington to make unilateral steps in dealing with global and regional issues. This could lead to a decrease in the threshold for using nuclear weapons to preempt enemy actions.”
Russia’s concern about U.S. nuclear capabilities highlights a deepening rift between the Cold War foes as they trade accusations over the war in Syria. While NATO members have stressed that the alliance’s global missile shield will be a defense solely against potential attacks from so-called “rogue states,” particularly Iran and North Korea, Russia and China have been voicing concerns over their own security.
In May, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that placing parts of the system in Romania and Poland — once Soviet satellites — is threatening peace in Europe and warned that it may trigger a new arms race. China described the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system as an “out-and-out strategic” move that threatens its national security, warning about taking “necessary measures to safeguard” its interests. The plan has already soured Chinese ties with South Korea.
According to Poznikhir, the U.S. defense system includes weapons that, if fired from a warship in the Baltic Sea, can intercept ballistic missiles launched from the European part of Russia before a nuclear warhead is separated. U.S. missile defense launchpads can also be used for Tomahawk cruise missiles and there is no guarantee that such systems wouldn’t replace Thaad complexes in South Korea, he said.