Putin Says Russia will Risk Nuclear War with NATO to Defend Crimea; almost Went to War in 2014
Russia will go to war to defend Crimea against NATO and will risk a nuclear war in defense of this peninsula jutting out into the Black Sea it unlawfully seized from Ukraine in March 2014, said Russia's revanchist president Vladimir Putin.
Putin made this assertion in an interview with American film director Oliver Stone as part of a four-episode series about the Russian leader aired this week in the U.S. by Showtime, an American premium cable and satellite television network, and a subsidiary of CBS Corporation.
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He said in case of a threat to Crimea, Russia will defend this land with "all available means," a direct allusion to war.
"After Crimea became a fully-fledged part of the Russian Federation, our attitude to this territory radically changed," said Putin.
"And if we see a threat to our territory -- and the Crimea is our territory -- we, like any state, will defend our territory with all means available to us."
Putin also hinted that separate incidents in the Black Sea in 2014 and 2016 involving the same U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer -- the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) -- almost ignited World War III.
The Donald Cook, which is deployed to the United States Sixth Fleet headquartered in Italy, is equipped with the Aegis Combat System, an integrated, computerized, quick reaction air and ballistic missile defense system that provides extraordinary capabilities against attacking aircraft and missiles.
The heart of the Aegis system is the SPY radar that automatically detects and tracks virtually everything in the air, allowing U.S. Navy destroyers equipped with this system to identify, evaluate and engage the enemy "with incredible firepower and accuracy."
The Donald Cook's main weapon is its vertical launching system (VLS) armed with a mix of RIM-67 Standard ER (SM-1ER/SM-2ER) extended range surface-to-air missiles (SAMs); BGM-109 Tomahawks or RUM-139 VL-ASROC missiles.
It was this heavily armed and protected destroyer that transited the Bosporous Strait from the Sea of Marmara unde the command of Commander Scott A. Jones to enter the Black Sea on April 10, 2014 in a show of NATO's support for its regional allies bordering Ukraine.
Two days later, the Donald Cook was intercepted by a single, unarmed Sukhoi Su-24 supersonic attack aircraft that made 12 close-range passes of the destroyer during a patrol of the western Black Sea.
The Pentagon said the Russian aircraft "did not respond to multiple queries and warnings from Donald Cook, and the event ended without incident after approximately 90 minutes. The Donald Cook is more than capable of defending itself against two Su-24s."
Russian state-controlled media said the Donald Cook was dispatched to a Black Sea area off Crimea shortly after the peninsula's Russian dominated governing body voted in March 2014 to reunite with Russia.
It wrongly claimed the Donald Cook fled the Bosporus Strait "after it was detected and caught into crosshairs by Russia's coast guard."
In Putin's eyes, however, this solitary incident almost ignited a nuclear World War III.
"At that time, the world stood on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe," said Putin.
"Thank god, we did not let that situation slip into it, even though we sent our advanced Bastion coast defense weapons to Crimea. We are allowed to use any means at our disposal to protect Russia.
"What was the Donald Cook doing close to our territory? Who provoked whom? We plan to defend our territory."