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Putin Warns Against NATO Plan on Visit

Published: December 5, 2012 (Issue # 1738)


MOSCOW President Vladimir Putin used his first known trip inalmost two months toboost economic ties with Turkey andslam aNATO plan toplace surface-to-air missiles onthe Turkish-Syrian border.

Theone-day visit toIstanbul also seemed torefute rumors that Putin is suffering frompoor health. Speculation swirled after theKremlin canceled aslew offoreign trips, including this one, inOctober andNovember.

Putin used theoccasion tocriticize aplan touse Patriot missiles toprotect Turkey against airborne attacks fromits war-torn neighbor Syria, such as arocket strike that killed five inOctober.

Speaking ata news conference, Putin described that attack as anaccident andsaid Syria is obviously inno position toattack its neighbors, Interfax reported Monday.

Russia traditionally views foreign anti-missile batteries near its borders as asecurity threat, andPutin warned that themissiles could lead toescalating tensions between Turkey andSyria.

You know, as they say, if theres agun hanging onthe wall atthe beginning ofthe play, bythe end it will absolutely be fired, andwhy do we need additional shots fired onthe border? he said.

NATO foreign ministers are expected toapprove Turkeys request forthe Patriot missile batteries ata meeting onTuesday inBrussels.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen dismissed Russian fears ofan escalation.

This is asolely defensive measure that will be de-escalating, he told reporters inBrussels. The [missiles] purpose is toensure theeffective protection ofpeople onTurkish territory. Theessence ofthe alliance is toprotect.

Some described Putins visit toTurkey as alast attempt toderail theplan.

Alexander Shumilin, aMiddle East expert atthe Institute for U.S. andCanadian Studies, said Putin likely traveled toIstanbul with aserious proposal, possibly including theevacuation ofSyrian President Bashar Assad toRussia inexchange forTurkey rejecting themissile plan.

If Putin didnt have any proposals forinfluencing thesituation inSyria, why would he go todiscuss this question with Erdogan? Shumilin said Monday bytelephone, referring toTurkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

There are very persistent rumors about Assad being evacuated toMoscow, he said. This is one ofthose cases when therumors have astrong foundation.

Russia has used its UN Security Council veto power toswat down calls forinternational sanctions onthe Syrian government. It has also said it would honor existing weapons contracts.

But Putin denied that Russia was astaunch defender ofthe Syrian regime, saying theRussian government was worried about repeating recent mistakes, avague reference toLibya.

Anestimated 40,000 Syrians have died since mass anti-government protests began inMarch 2011 andlater evolved intoa civil war.





 


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