Chinese and Russian marines take part in
the 400-meter sea-crossing and landing training as a par of the China-Russia
naval drill “Joint Sea-2016” on September 13, 2016 in Zhanjiang, Guangdong
Province of China. Li Jin/VCG via Getty Images
MOSCOW - Amid
escalating U.S.-Russia tensions, the Russian military said
Tuesday it will cooperate with China on efforts to fend off a threat posed
the U.S. missile defense program.
Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir of the Russian military’s General Staff accused
the Pentagon of developing the shield as part of planning for a possible
first nuclear strike. “The missile defense system considerably shifts the
balance of offensive weapons, allowing the planning of a more efficient
pre-emptive strike,” he said at a security conference in China.
Russia and China have frequently expressed concerns about the U.S. missile
shield, but Poznikhir dropped any diplomatic reticence in his blunt speech
that reflected a widening rift between Moscow and Washington.
“Russian military experts believe that the U.S. hopes to gain the
capability to strike any region of the world, including Russia and China,
with nuclear-tipped missiles with impunity,” he said. Poznikhir argued
that Washington’s calculus would be to launch a first disarming strike and
then rely on the missile shield to shoot down the remaining enemy missiles
launched at the U.S. in a retaliatory strike.
He used an analogy of two gladiators armed with swords facing each other.
“If one of the gladiators takes up a shield, it will give him a marked
advantage and make him think that he would be able to win, particularly if
he strikes first,” he said. “What would another gladiator do? Naturally,
he also would pick up a shield and also a longer and stronger sword. This
is what happening now as a result of the U.S. missile deployment.”
Poznikhir said that both Russia and China have
taken countermeasures in response to the U.S. missile defense
program, but he didn’t elaborate.
He noted that Russia and China held drills earlier this year to simulate a
joint action to fend off missile strikes under the protection of a missile
defense system near their borders. Poznikhir added that Moscow and Beijing
will conduct a similar exercise next year.
Like other Russian officials before him, Poznikhir shrugged off U.S.
statements that the missile defense system is intended to fend off threats
from North Korea and Iran. He argued that the planned U.S. system will
include hundreds of missile interceptors - a capability far exceeding the
need to deal with any potential threats from Iran and North Korea.
“Under the pretext of countering the North Korean and Iranian ‘missile
threats,’ the system intended primarily for engaging Russian and Chinese
missiles is being developed,” he said.
“The illusion of invulnerability and impunity under the missile defense
umbrella would encourage Washington to take unilateral steps in dealing
with global and regional issues,” Poznikhir said. “That can objectively
lead to lowering the threshold of nuclear weapons use to pre-empt the
He added that governments in Europe and Asia which agreed to host elements
of the U.S. missile shield had made their people “hostages of the U.S.