Russia Warns U.S. Against New Missiles as Deals Fall Apart: 'We View These Steps As a Threat to Our Country'

Russia's top diplomat warned against a growing U.S. military presence at a time when the world's top two powers were locked into a deep geopolitical feud, threatening to disrupt historic arms control treaties.

During a press conference alongside his Tokyo counterpart, Moscow's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called for "an increase in Russian-Japanese relations to a qualitatively new level" and reaffirmed the two nations' post-World War II joint declaration to restore ties.

At the same time, Lavrov noted that "the situation has fundamentally changed" since that global conflict, as Japan would soon go on to fall under the protection of the U.S., Russia's top rival for decades to come.

"We again drew attention to a number of Washington's actions, including deploying elements of a global missile defense system on Japanese territory, increasing its military presence in the region and, in general, its other steps in the field of disarmament and arms control, where the United States demolishes all existing agreements," Lavrov said.

"We view these steps as a threat to our country," he added

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The Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy tests the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, December 12, 2018. Japan has planned to purchase two U.S. Aegis Ashore batteries amid protests from Russia. Ryan Keith/U.S. Missile Defense Agency/Department of Defense

The U.S. had long been wary of the Communist-ruled Soviet Union, but the two powers joined forces alongside other Allied nations in World War II to defeat the Axis states of Nazi Germany, imperial Japan and fascist Italy. Washington and Moscow played crucial roles in the European and Pacific fronts, with the Red Army first taking Berlin, and the U.S. ultimately taking Tokyo—but only after conducting the first-ever two atomic bomb attacks, just ahead of an impending Soviet invasion.

Competing visions for post-war Europe quickly descended into the Cold War, a decades-long competition for global influence that saw both the U.S. and Soviet Union assemble massive arsenals, including tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that were exponentially stronger than those dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Over the years, the two powers also managed to sign a handful of major non-proliferation agreements to limit and restrict these stockpiles.

Today, a resurgent Russia again has sought to rebuild its international clout and some of those deals were at risk of collapsing as the U.S. walked away. Among the first to go was the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, scrapped by former President George W. Bush in 2002. Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin warning last year that the U.S. exit from the ABM treaty was "the very moment" that a new "arms race" began between the two countries, President Donald Trump opted in February to leave another vital agreement, the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

Washington accused Moscow of violating the INF treaty by developing a new missile system that fell within the 310 to 3,420-mile range it restricted, while Russia denied this and instead argued that the Pentagon was already breaking the treaty's terms in Europe by deploying defense systems some have said are capable of being used to attack as well. These defense systems, Russia has argued, were part of a global missile shield designed to undermine the country's strategic capabilities.

The U.S., which commanded an estimated 800 bases around the world, has developed an unparalleled military projection since World War II. While the NATO military alliance propped up the Western flank of its might, the U.S. also maintained tens of thousands of troops, along with anti-missile assets, in the Pacific. In addition to the Terminal High-Altitude Area System (THAAD) in South Korea, the U.S. has supplied sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Systems to Japan. Despite protests from Moscow, Tokyo was set to receive two land-based Aegis Ashore positions as the U.S. and Russia threatened countermeasures to any new deployments from the opposing side.

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A military band stands in front of a screen broadcasting Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech during the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in downtown Moscow, May 9. Putin has often evoked imagery from World War II as he sought to restore his country's global clout to its Soviet-era glory. MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images

Putin has frequently evoked the imagery of World War II, known to Russians as the Great Patriotic War, in his public speeches and recently showed off some of his modernized military assets at Thursday's Victory Day parade in Moscow. He told the crowd that lessons learned in the 1940s were "still relevant."

"We have done and will continue to do our best to ensure high combat capability of our armed forces, the defense potential of the most modern level," Putin said. "And we will continue to reinforce the prestige of military service and the standing of soldiers and officers, the defenders of the Fatherland."

In what he said was a response to the global missile shield being built by the U.S. and its allies, Putin unveiled a new arsenal of nuclear-capable weapons designed to evade even the most advanced defenses on the planet. Trump, in response to Moscow's development of new cruise and hypersonic missile technology, vowed to extend the U.S. worldwide missile shield into space, further eliciting concerns from Russia, a well as China.

Trump also called into question the New START (Strategic Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty) forged by his predecessor, President Barack Obama, in 2011, and based on a concept first hammered out by the U.S. and Soviet Union in 1991.

Instead, the president called for a new nuclear agreement, one that included Beijing. While Russia initially welcomed the proposal, Trump's propensity for quitting international arrangements, such as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, has continued to raise doubts among friends and foes alike.

Russia Warns U.S. Against New Missiles as Deals Fall Apart: 'We View These Steps As a Threat to Our Country' | World