MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin on Thursday repeated his threat to aim Russian rockets at former Soviet satellite states if U.S. missile defense facilities are deployed there.
Speaking about U.S. plans for interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic, Putin said that "our experts consider that this system threatens our national security and if it appears, we will be obligated to adequately react to this."
He said Russia's action would be to "retarget our missiles toward a system that we aren't creating."
"We are warning people ahead of time: if you take this step, then we will make this step," Putin told an annual news conference in the Kremlin.
Putin also said Russian missiles could be aimed at neighboring Ukraine -- a former Soviet republic whose pro-Western leadership is pursuing NATO membership -- if it were to host a missile-defense facility. Putin had issued the same warning in a meeting with Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko earlier this week.
He suggested that the United States and the leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic were going ahead with plans for the missile defense system without asking for public approval, which he called undemocratic.
Turning to another sore point in Moscow's relations with the West, Putin also lashed out angrily at the United States and other NATO nations over their refusal to ratify an amended version of the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Putin suspended Russia's participation in the pact in December.
He said the restrictions Russia faced under the treaty were made unacceptable by NATO's eastward expansion after the 1991 Soviet collapse, likening them to a situation in which U.S. troop movements from California to Texas would be subject to Russian approval.
"We will no longer fulfill any colonial conditions," Putin said.
Putin also spoke of Russia's renewal of the Soviet-era practice of global bomber flights close to other countries' borders, saying that Moscow is not looking for a fight but must conduct the flights to keep its military in shape.
"No clash is planned, and I hope that will never happen," he said.
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