Carter accused Russia of “nuclear saber-rattling” and “violating sovereignty” of US allies at the Reagan National Defence Forum in California, AP reported Saturday.
He put Russia and China in the same league as Islamic State (IS) when listing America’s top-ranked bogeymen.
“Terror elements like IS, of course, stand entirely opposed to our values. But other challenges are more complicated, and given their size and capabilities, potentially more damaging,” he said.
“Some actors appear intent on eroding these principles and undercutting the international order that helps enforce them… Of course, neither Russia nor China can overturn that order. But both present different challenges for it,” he said.
Russia and China are challenging “American pre-eminence” and Washington’s so-called “stewardship of the world order” as they reassert themselves on the international arena as serious military powers, he said.
According to Carter, their “challenging activities” can be seen at every possible level, be it at sea, in the air, in space – or even in cyberspace.
“Most disturbing” for the US official, however, is what he called “Moscow’s nuclear saber-rattling,” which in his view “raises questions about Russian leaders’ commitment to strategic stability, their respect for norms against the use of nuclear weapons, and whether they respect the profound caution nuclear-age leaders showed with regard to the brandishing of nuclear weapons.”
He may be referring to a recent Russian reaction to US plans to deploy advanced nuclear bombs at the Büchel Air Base in Germany, part of a joint NATO nuclear sharing program which involves non-nuclear NATO states hosting more than 200 US nuclear warheads.
The Kremlin then said the new US nukes deployed in Europe would destroy the strategic balance in the region and force Russia to take similar measures.
Although, in this contest, the US appears to be pushing Russia toward arms race, Carter thinks the other way.
“We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot, war with Russia. We do not seek to make Russia an enemy. But make no mistake; the United States will defend our interests, our allies, the principled international order, and the positive future it affords us all,”Carter said.
According to him, Russia is stirring conflicts in Europe and the Middle East.
“In Europe, Russia has been violating sovereignty in Ukraine and Georgia and actively trying to intimidate the Baltic states. Meanwhile, in Syria, Russia is throwing gasoline on an already dangerous fire, prolonging a civil war that fuels the very extremism Russia claims to oppose,” he told the forum.
He accused Russia and China of not following the principles of the global order: peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom from coercion, respect for state sovereignty, and freedom of navigation.