A week after Russian president Vladimir Putin doubled-down on a warning to Russia's geopolitical foes first made earlier this year by declaring that Russia would use its "unstoppable" nuclear weapons in response to an incoming missile attack shortly after US president Trump announced the US would pull out of the INF Treaty, a Russian diplomat has both confirmed (and denied) what US war hawks have been saying: Moscow is preparing for war, just in case the US starts one.
Speaking at the UN on Friday, Andrey Belousov, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Department of Nonproliferation and Arms Control, echoed Putin's comments from last week that Russia is indeed readying itself for war, but only so it can defend its people against American aggression.
"At a recent meeting, the US stated that Russia is preparing for war. Yes, Russia is preparing for war, I can confirm it", Belousov said adding that "We are preparing to defend our homeland, our territorial integrity, our principles, our values, our people."
Russia's military build-up and large-scale drills, which have often been painted in the Western media as preparations for all-out war, are a defensive necessity, he said.
Russia doesn't seek a confrontation, he said, unlike the US. "Why else would the United States pull out of the [INF] Treaty, increase their nuclear potential, adopt a new nuclear doctrine that lowers the threshold for nuclear weapons use – that's the question for us all."
Belousov's words came after a Russian draft resolution to reinforce the INF Treaty, which bans intermediate-range nuclear weapons, was overwhelmingly rejected at the UN First Committee.
"Most of those who voted against were supporters of the INF Treaty. I don't understand their position," Belousov said. Among those who voted down the draft were the UK, Germany, France, and, of course, the US.
Trump's decision to scrap the Cold War-era agreement has alarmed both Europe and Moscow, which warned it would "make the world a more dangerous place" and vowed retaliation.
Washington has accused Russia of building missiles prohibited by the INF, while Moscow argued that American missile defense complexes in Europe can be easily turned into offensive weapons. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that if the US moves to deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe, it will put the whole of Europe at risk of a retaliatory strike.