Russia’s defense minister says the US accuses his country of “aggression,” while its own military is advancing closer and closer to Russian borders, calling on Washington to explain why its military bases are edging closer to Russian soil.
“Today, recuperating Russia is being viewed not as an ally but as a threat to the US dominance,” Sergei Shoigu said in an interview with Italy’s Il Giornale newspaper, which was released on Wednesday.
“I, as president of the Russian Geographical Society, have for a long time wanted to present the US colleagues with a globe so that they would look at it and explain to us, why the ‘US adversaries’ designated by them are located in the Middle East and East Asia, while all their military bases and groups are nearing Russia's borders,” he added.
“We are being accused of some aggressive plans with regard to the West, which, in turn, continues to deploy new forces near our borders,” the minister noted.
The NATO military alliance – led by the US-- has been increasingly beefing up its presence in Eastern Europe and near the Russian border.
Last month, Some 19 countries, mostly from NATO, stationed around 18,000 troops in Poland and three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Russia has been wary of NATO’s increased build-up near its borders while accusing countries like Poland of opportunism by trying to have a permanent NATO presence on its soil.
Ties between Russia and the West sharply deteriorated after Crimea in 2014 separated from Ukraine and rejoined the Russian Federation following a popular referendum. Kiev and its Western allies, however, accuse Russia of annexing the Black Sea peninsula.Picture taken on March 21, 2015 shows deployment of a launching station of the American Patriot air and missile system at a test range in Poland. (Photo by AFP)
Shoigu further argued that the Russo-American tensions have been -- contrary to what the US claims -- “artificially fueled” by the American elites, who believe in the superiority of Washington.
Those elites, he said, “believe that the world is divided into the US [part] and the wrong [one].”
The Russian defense chief further described the deployment by the US of missile systems in Europe as a violation of “the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty).
Those system’s launchers, he said, could be used for firing Tomahawk cruise missiles at the European part of Russia’s territory.
“We have repeatedly and publicly made it clear in all major international fora that it is the United States that is directly violating the INF Treaty, having installed, during the deployment of a missile shield in Europe, its MK-41 vertical launching systems, which might be used for the launch of Tomahawk cruise missiles. The destructive radius of these missiles covers almost all the European part of Russia's territory,” he told the paper.
Iran, Turkey’s Syria role
Separately, Shoigu hailed the roles being played by Iran and Turkey in Syria.
“Iran, along with Turkey, has historically been one of the main actors in the region and plays a key role in stabilization of the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Shoigu noted.
Shoigu also cast doubt on the sincerity of US military presence in Syria and added, “Affirming its ‘noble’ objectives and ‘good’ will, the United States has not allocated a cent to provide real assistance to Syrian civilians devastated by long years of war.”
Dozens of civilians continue to be killed by munition and mortars left in Raqqah after massive bombings by the US-led coalition, he noted.
At Damascus’ request, the Islamic Republic provides military advisory assistance to the Syrian military in the face of terrorists. Turkey also maintains an intermediary role on behalf of the Syrian opposition in talks with the Syrian government.
Damascus, however, objects to a Turkish military presence in northern Syria, calling it aggression.