Russia vows to pursue ‘tit-for-tat’ defense measures against the US

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Russia is prepared to respond to “unfriendly” behavior by the United States by strengthening its defense forces and pursuing “tit-for-tat” and “asymmetrical” measures, according to the new foreign policy concept that President Vladimir Putin signed on Thursday.

The foreign policy concept was published online in Russian and reported by Russian state-controlled media outlets. It stated Russia’s objections to efforts by the United States to “exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction” and said that Moscow will retaliate against any military, political, or economic pressure it detects from Washington.

“Moscow does not accept Washington’s attempts to exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction that violate international law, and is adamant to resist any military, political, or economic pressure reserving the right to strictly respond to unfriendly actions particularly by strengthening national defense and taking tit-for-tat as well as asymmetrical measures,” the document stated, according to excerpts translated to English and cited by TASS.

Putin approved the updated foreign policy concept on Thursday, the same day he said in an annual address that Russia is prepared to cooperate with the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump and does not seek “confrontations” with other countries.

The foreign policy concept said Russia will only engage with the United States on bilateral relations and global issues if conversations obey “the principle of equality, mutual respect of interests, and non-interference.”

Relations between Russia and other Western powers have worsened in the two years following Moscow’s military interventions in Ukraine and Syria. The United States and European Union have targeted Russia with sanctions as a result of its involvement in Ukraine.

Ukraine RussiaREUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

NATO has also deployed additional forces to Poland and the Baltic states to counter Russian aggression, drawing ire from Moscow. The new document described NATO’s expansion near Russia’s borders and the U.S. global missile defense as threats.

The foreign policy document spotlighted an “intensifying” strategic environment that has resulted in the “factor of force” playing a larger role in Moscow’s relations with other countries. While the document stated the probability of nuclear or “large-scale” war is low, it predicted that “leading states” are increasingly likely to become involved in regional conflicts.

Putin signed the document as Ukraine’s armed forces launched missile drills in the Black Sea near the border with Russian-occupied Crimea, angering Moscow, which threatened to retaliate with a missile strike against Kiev.

“Amid the intensifying political, social and economic contradictions and the growing instability of the world political and economic system, the role of the factor of force in international relations increases,” the document stated. “The build-up and modernization of the force potential, the creation and deployment of new types of armaments are undermining strategic stability and creating a threat to global security ensured by a system of treaties and agreements in the sphere of arms control.”

“While the danger of unleashing a large-scale war, including a nuclear conflict, remains low among leading states, there are increasing risks of their involvement in regional conflicts and the escalation of crises,” the document continued.

The concept also made pronouncements about Russia’s position on pressing foreign policy issues. Moscow wants to create an anti-terror coalition against ISIS, according to a summary of the contents published by Russian-controlled Sputnik. Putin said on Thursday that Moscow is willing to work with the United States on counterterrorism, though attempts by the Obama administration to cooperate on the Syrian conflict have backfired.

Hmeymim base russia syriaREUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

The document said Russia aims to settle the Syrian civil war and other Middle East conflicts through diplomacy and “without external interference,” according to Sputnik. Russia, an ally of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, intervened in the war-torn country under the pretense of bombing ISIS but has also targeted U.S.-backed rebels fighting the regime.

The document said that Russia will continue to bolster relations with China and strengthen its military positions in the Asia-Pacific region, which Moscow regards as strategically important to its foreign policy. A leading Russian general said in October that Moscow would work with China to counter U.S. missile defense, which both countries regard as targeting their assets.

U.S. military leaders, lawmakers, and experts have characterized Russia and China as emerging threats to U.S. interests, given their investments in military capabilities and new technologies.

Putin spoke at length about matters of domestic and foreign policy during an annual address to Russia’s federal assembly on Thursday. He indicated a willingness to work with the incoming Trump administration, though he did not mention the Republican president-elect by name.

“It’s important to normalize and begin to develop bilateral relations on an equal and mutually beneficial basis,” Putin said Thursday. “Mutual efforts by Russia and the United States in solving global and regional problems are in the interest of the entire world.”

Trump has said he would seek warmer relations with Moscow, prompting warnings from some in his own party.

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