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Putin warns on Ukraine ‘red line’ as US, UK pledge response


President Vladimir Putin warned the West not to cross the Kremlin’s security “red line” as the US and the UK said any Russian incursion into Ukraine would trigger serious diplomatic and economic responses.
Expansion of western military infrastructure into Ukraine would leave Moscow exposed to the risk of attack in as little as five minutes “if supersonic weapons are placed there,” Putin said in a videoconference at the VTB Russia Calling! forum in Moscow. “Then we will have to create something similar to those who threaten us and we can already do that now.”
Russia will have a sea-based hypersonic missile capable of traveling at nine times the speed of sound from the start of the year and “the flight time to those who give out such orders will also be five minutes,” Putin said. “This creation of such threats for us is the red line.”
The Kremlin leader showed little sign of heeding the growing chorus of calls from the US and its allies to dial back tensions over Ukraine. The US has shared intelligence with European allies showing Russia massing troops and artillery near its border with Ukraine, saying the deployment could be a prelude for an invasion early next year. Putin has denied any such plan and accuses the US and its allies of provocative actions against Russia.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a news conference in Latvia ahead of a
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) meeting that any Russian attack “will trigger serious consequences.”
Boris Johnson’s government issued its own warning that the UK would use “all diplomatic and economic levers at our disposal” to avert the threat.
“We will support Ukraine and stability in the Western Balkans, to safeguard their security and build their economic resilience,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement, as she attends the Nato meeting in Latvia.
“We have seen this playbook from the Kremlin before when Russia falsely claimed its illegal annexation of Crimea was a response to Nato aggression,” she said. “Any suggestion that Nato is provoking the Russians is clearly false.”
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said before the Riga talks that Russia would pay “a high price” if it used force against Ukraine. Asked by reporters what he meant and whether he ruled out military intervention, Stoltenberg said: “We have different options.”
He mentioned the use, in answer to Russia’s earlier resorting to military force against Ukraine, of “heavy economic and financial sanctions, political sanctions, and also the fact that we have increased our presence here, in the region, both in the Black Sea region and in the Baltic region, in the air, on land and at sea.” Putin noted that the US and its allies raised similar concerns about a Russian build-up of forces near Ukraine in the spring, though nothing came of it.
The question isn’t whether to fight or not, but “to take into account the security interests of all participants in international activities,” Putin said. “If we sincerely strive for this, then no one will experience any threats.”
Russia seized Crimea in 2014 and has backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict with the Kyiv government that has killed more than 13,000 so far.
The European Union said it is working to arrange a meeting between the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with a spokesperson warning Russia against violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty or territorial integrity.

‘China isn’t a threat, but US hypersonic weapons are’

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he isn’t worried by China’s growing military strength because of the “unprecedented” level of ties between the former Communist rivals, and pointed to US capability in hypersonic weapons as the real threat.
“Why should we be concerned about the increased military potential of our nearest neighbour with whom we have an unprecedentedly high level of bilateral ties?” Putin said during a videoconference.
“We saw the reaction of our US partners to this but we know that the US is slightly ahead in hypersonic weapons development.”
Putin unveiled Russia’s hypersonic weapons just before his re-election as president in 2018, and has boasted that his military has the world’s most advanced such armaments, capable of evading missile-defense systems.

Russia is preparing to deploy a sea-based hypersonic missile next year that can travel at nine times the speed of sound, Putin said at the forum.
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley last month described China’s suspected test of a hypersonic weapons system over the summer as close to a “Sputnik moment” in significance for the American military, adding that “It has all of our attention.” Russia has built a “strategic partnership” with China, in part to counter U.S. dominance, despite some concerns among Kremlin policymakers about the rising power of the giant eastern neighbour. Putin said he plans to visit Beijing for the opening of the Winter Olympics in February.

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