Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that any bid to “destroy” Russia will trigger a response from Moscow that spells “catastrophe for mankind.”
Speaking with the Russian state television in an interview on Wednesday, Putin said his country would retaliate attacks against its sovereignty in kind.
“If someone makes a decision to destroy Russia, then we have a legitimate right to respond,” he asserted. “Yes, it will mean a global catastrophe for mankind, for the entire world. But as a citizen of Russia and the head of the Russian state I would ask: What is such a world for, if there were no Russia?”
The Russian leader made clear that Russia would never use nuclear weapons against other countries unless it becomes under attack by such weapons.
“The decision to use nuclear weapons can only be made if our early warning system not only detects a missile launch but clearly forecasts its flight path and the time when warheads reach the Russian territory,” said Putin.
The stark warnings came a week after Putin showcased Russia’s new strategic weapons, including nuclear-powered submarine drones, massive intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with hyper-sonic warheads, cruise missiles and a ground-based laser weapon that had already entered service.
A Russian defense official says the US is planning to encircle Russia with 400 anti-ballistic missiles as part of its military buildup in Eastern Europe.
He said then that the new weapons were developed as a response to Washington’s violation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was signed between the US and the Soviet Union to limit the use of missile defense systems.
Putin said Washington unilaterally withdrew from the agreement under former President George W. Bush to advance its missile technology, but Moscow has made sure that its strategic weapons can get past any modern US system.
Putin praises Trump, says US ‘devouring itself’
Elsewhere in his remarks, Putin praised US President Donald Trump as a “balanced” leader but expressed disappointment with the American political system.
The Russian head of state said his US counterpart made a “good impression” on him during their various meetings on the sidelines of international summits last year.
“It’s possible to negotiate with him, to search for compromises,” Putin said, noting that he had no “disappointment” with the American president.
Putin then proceeded to voice frustration with the political system in the US, which he said “has demonstrated its inefficiency and has been easting itself up.”
“It’s quite difficult to interact with such a system, because it’s unpredictable,” the Russian president argued.
Russian President Vladimir Putin calls for “pragmatic cooperation” with Washington in his New Year message to US President Donald Trump.
Asked about the bitter tensions in ties between Russia and the West, Putin accused Western powers of orchestrating plots to contain and weaken Russia.
“We are a great power, and no one likes competition,” he said.
The US and its Western allies have long been at loggerheads with Russia over a range of issues, using economic and political means to contain Moscow’s influence in the Middle East as well as eastern Europe.
‘Blatant cheating’ in Ukraine
Putin said he was particularly disappointed by Washington’s role in the ouster of Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovich in February 2014 as he was dealing with anti-government protests.
According to Putin, then US President Barack Obama asked Russia to advise Yanukovych against using force to quell the tensions inside the country and then “rudely and blatantly” cheated Russia by sponsoring a “coup.”
Russia says the US is crossing the line by providing Ukraine with lethal arms.
“Those who serve us with poison will eventually swallow it and poison themselves,” he warned.
Pointing to Western sanctions against Moscow over the 2014 reintegration of Crimea to Russia, Putin said they were part of “illegitimate and unfair” efforts to contain Russia but added that “we will win in the long run.”