Putin Reaffirms Russia's
Right To Preemptive Strikes


(AFP) -- President Vladimir Putin has reaffirmed his position that Russia can resort to preemptive military strikes because the policy is also practiced by the United States.
"If the principle of preventive use of force continues to develop in international practice, then Russia reserves the right to act in an analogous manner to defend its national interests," Putin said in an interview whose transcript was released Tuesday.
"All nuclear powers are improving their nuclear potential and Russia will do the same," Putin said in an interview with Italian journalists ahead of this week's visit to Rome, according to Interfax.
"But our nuclear policy, as opposed, say, to that of the Soviet Union, is not directed at anyone, it is directed only at strengthening our security," Putin said.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in October said that Russia would re-evaluate its nuclear stance should NATO remain a military alliance with an "offensive" doctrine.
But later, speaking in the United States, he assured NATO countries that Moscow was not seeking to adopt a preemptive nuclear strategy.
"Russia still regards nuclear weapons as a means of political deterrence. We do not envisage a scenario or a situation where we would use such weapons first," said Ivanov on October 9.
Putin in late October said that Russia still planned to rely on its massive nuclear arsenal for decades to come despite signing a broad disarmament agreement with the United States last year.
He said Russia has a "significant amount" of SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missiles that had never previously deployed -- and were thus not part of disarmament negotiations -- and which remain mothballed for emergency use.
He said they would be the perfect weapon for breaking through a potential missile defense shield that has been heavily backed by US President George W. Bush.
"These rockets could easily break through any missile shield for decades to come," Putin warned.
He said the SS-19 could function for up to 25 more years and gradually replace decommissioned missiles.
"In the meantime, we will begin producing new strategic weapons that will guarantee are strategic nuclear missile deterrence system," he said.
Putin was Tuesday due to leave Moscow for Italy for a summit with the European Union on Thursday.
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