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Monday 10 December 2018

Putin threats 'unacceptable', warns Nato

A Russian military policeman stands guard between the portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hanging outside a guard-post in Damascus. Photo: Louai Beshara/Getty
A Russian military policeman stands guard between the portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hanging outside a guard-post in Damascus. Photo: Louai Beshara/Getty

Robin Emmott Brussels

Nato has said Russian ­president Vladimir Putin's threat to target its members is unacceptable and that the military alliance will continue using its armed forces to deter aggression.

Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said: "Russian ­statements threatening to ­target ­allies are unacceptable and ­counter- productive."

Suggestion: Ramzan Kadyrov
Suggestion: Ramzan Kadyrov

Mr Putin said this week that Moscow has tested an array of new strategic nuclear weapons that cannot be intercepted, and told the West: "You have failed to contain Russia."

Ms Lungescu said Nato's missile defence system is built to respond to attacks from outside Europe and North America and not directed against Russia.

Noting Russia's "aggressive actions" in Ukraine and military build-up around Europe, she said: "Nato is pursuing a twin-track approach to Russia: strong deterrence and defence, combined with meaningful dialogue."

Meanwhile, Russians are showering the Defence Ministry with proposed names for the country's new nuclear weapons, relishing the online contest announced by Mr Putin in his state-of-the-nation address on Thursday.

The suggestions include 'Kraken' for a new underwater drone capable of blasting coastlines with a powerful nuclear explosion, and 'Balalaika' for a futuristic nuclear-powered cruise missile capable of circling the globe.

The kraken - a fictional gigantic Arctic sea monster that was made popular by the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' film series - seemed to reflect the nature of the nuclear-powered drone intended to sneak close to the shore unnoticed and slam a heavy nuclear warhead into the coast.

And naming the stealth atomic-powered cruise missile after a Russian folk musical instrument tapped into a long Russian tradition of giving innocuous names to some of the deadliest weapons.

Humour

Many of the entries reflected the wry dark humour Russians are known for.

Someone suggested calling the missile 'Sanction', an apparent reference to Western economic sanctions against Russia for its support of separatists in Ukraine.

Another proposed calling it 'Thaw', adding in a note of sarcasm that it would finally help warm the ties between Russia and the US.

There were quite a few four-letter entries as well. Many others were driven by patriotic feelings, suggesting that the weapons be named after legendary Russian warriors or Putin himself.

The regional leader of the province of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, proposed calling the nuclear-powered cruise missile 'Palmyra' after the historic heritage site in Syria that was taken back from Isil under Russian air cover. The site suffered extensive damage in the fighting.

"The missile's name should honour our guys who died in Syria," Kadyrov said.

"The Russian victory in Palmyra marked a turning point in the fight against Isil."

Russian diplomats have sought to spread the contest beyond Russia's borders, with the Russian embassy in Washington tweeting a link to the defence ministry's website.

As the weapon name contest went on, Russian officials and lawmakers insisted that Putin's speech wasn't an announcement of a new arms race but a warning to Washington to treat Russia as an equal partner.

"Russia has no intention to enter the arms race," Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters yesterday, adding that the weapons presented by the Russian leader aimed to maintain a "strategic parity, which is essential for maintaining peace and stability".

The Pentagon this week dismissed Putin's boasts about developing a new array of nuclear weapons, saying America's missile defence system is ready to protect the nation but is not directed at Russia.

Irish Independent

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