Franz Klintsevich is a senator and leading member of the Kremlin United Russia Party
A close ally of Vladimir Putin has threatened to target Russian nuclear weapons on NATO countries if the alliance seeks to expand its sway in Europe.
Franz Klintsevich, 59, a senator and leading member of the Kremlin strongman’s United Russia Party who as a paratrooper served with Soviet forces in Afghanistan, warned a modern Cuban missile crisis could be on the way to Europe.
The Kremlin claimed his views were ‘understandable’ but stressed it was Putin personally who decided Russia’s policy on targeting enemies.
‘Russia will deliver a hard and clear response to NATO’s aggressive actions, the alliance’s attempts to draw into its orbit yet more countries,’ said hardline legislator Klintsevich.
‘We shall train our weapons, including nuclear ones, on any alliance facilities threatening us, wherever they may be deployed.’
Klintsevich was speaking as deputy chairman of the Russian senate’s Defence and Security Committee at a time of rising tension between Moscow and the West.
Vladimir Putin said the situation is ‘heating up’ with regards to US and European forces in countries such as Estonia and Poland. However he has not mentioned setting nuclear missiles towards NATO aligned countries
The politician was hitting back NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg who urged Moscow to ‘be more relaxed and accept that some countries want to be members of NATO’.
Montenegro is seeking to become the alliance’s 29th member.
‘The NATO secretary-general thinks that Russia should view the turning of bordering countries into bridgeheads for possible strikes on it as [their] peoples’ free expression of will,’ complained Klintevich.
‘Let’s recall what may have happened, but fortunately did not happen, in the 1960s, when the Soviet Union deployed deadly arms in the territory of Cuba, with the agreement of its legitimate, I stress, government.’
His outburst follows Putin warning he would take ‘countermeasures’ in response to the build up of US and European forces in countries such as Estonia and Poland.
The Russian leader said: ‘The situation is heating up.
‘We are forced to take countermeasures – that is, to aim our missile systems at those facilities which we think pose a threat to us.’
HOW THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS ALMOST SPARKED WW III
A 1959 revolution led by communists Fidel Castro and Che Guevara overthrew Western-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.
They installed a communist government and nationalised private businesses, including ones owned and operated by U.S. citizens.
US President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded with an embargo and cut off ties with the country, which is just 90 miles from Florida, a year later.
On April 17, 1961, President John F. Kennedy authorised a failed attempt to overthrow Castro, known as the Bay of Pigs invasion. The next year his administration expanded the embargo against Cuba to cover all areas of the economy.
Eight months later Cuba allowed the Soviets to build a missile base on the island as part of a secret accord, leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis and near nuclear war.
The crisis, a 13-day stand-off from October 16 to 28 in 1962, involved U.S. naval ships surrounding the country until the US and the USSR came to an arrangement to remove nuclear weapons from Cuba (Soviets) and Italy and Turkey (US).
The Soviets backed out of Cuba while America abandoned missile bases in Turkey and Italy.
The US also agreed not to invade Cuba without direct provocation.
Putin recently deployed short-range ballistic missiles in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic.
His spokesman Dmitry Peskov played down Klintsevich’s comments, stressing the hawkish senator had no power over Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
‘For the record, under the constitution, our lawmakers do not shape the Russian foreign policy, which is defined by the president of the Russian Federation,’ he said.
But he understood Klinsevich’s blast.
‘Our lawmakers are entitled to a point of view.
‘They react keenly to international events, to NATO’s expansion towards Russian borders, to the expansion of NATO’s military infrastructure.
‘Therefore, such a position is understandable.’
Elsewhere, Russian media reported this week that Bastion and Bal anti-ship missile systems were now in operation in islands claimed by both Russia and Japan in the Pacific Ocean.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the deployment of missiles on the islands is ‘regrettable’ on Friday.
The dispute between the two islands, called the southern Kuriles in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, has been raging for 70 years.
The differing claims meant the two countries didn’t sign a formal peace treaty at the end of World War Two.