World should be wary of escalation of conflict between Russia, United States

The Yomiuri ShimbunBy reinforcing its nuclear capacity and thus touting to the people a “strong Russia” capable of countering the United States, the country is attempting to distract people from its economic stagnation. The true nature of the Russian administration can be said to have been revealed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual state of the union address, stating his administration policies. Ahead of the March 18 presidential election, in which he looks set to be reelected to a fourth term in total, Putin stressed the legitimacy of his hard-line foreign policy.

It is worrisome that he has shown off the development of new types of nuclear-capable weapons that would be able to breach the missile defense systems deployed by the United States.

He presented with video an intercontinental ballistic missile with a payload of multiple nuclear warheads and nuclear-powered cruise missiles. Although the true state of development remains unclear, it is obvious that it is aimed at deterring the U.S. administration under President Donald Trump.

Putin emphasized that Russia would retaliate immediately to any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies. Russia probably intends to deal with the new U.S. policy of increasing deterrence — spelled out in its new nuclear posture review (NPR) that Washington unveiled last month — citing such grounds as Russia having boosted its nuclear capability.

The U.S. missile-defense systems are vital for intercepting ballistic missiles from such countries as North Korea. It is irrelevant that Putin has said the missile defense systems would incapacitate Russia’s nuclear capability. Such thinking as Russia trying to have an advantage in its relations with the United States via nuclear threats is hard to accept.

Protect global security

The United States and Russia, which possess a combined 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads, should take up their obligations of pursuing nuclear disarmament imposed by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

In his speech, Putin cited as official pledges raising the national income and halving the population who suffer from poverty, but did not go so far as to spell out any concrete measures to realize them.

Following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine in 2014, Moscow was ousted from the Group of Eight industrialized countries and has been subjected to economic sanctions from the United States and European countries. Its economic structure of mainly depending on energy resources has not changed. How can the country make its military buildup and its improvement of people’s livelihoods compatible?

The image of being a “leader who would not succumb to the United Sates or Europe” is Putin’s strong point. By making military interventions in civil strife in Syria, he raised Russia’s influence in the Middle East. Regarding North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, Putin takes a negative position toward imposing sanctions on Pyongyang.

Putin is apparently trying to maintain public support for him by defying the post-Cold War international order led by the United States and European countries and by inspiring patriotic sentiment among Russia’s people. At home, he has also moved ahead with controlling the media and cracking down on forces critical of him.

Should he be reelected, Putin is set to remain in power until 2024, thus retaining his real control over a quarter of a century.

The international community must keep an eye on Russia’s hegemonic moves and prevent the global security environment from deteriorating due to intensifying U.S.-Russia conflict.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 5, 2018)Speech


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