Russian lawmakers said on Thursday that a new U.S. military deployment to Poland announced by President Donald Trump would force Moscow to take retaliatory steps, with one saying it would make Poland a target in the event of a conflict.
Trump pledged to Polish President Andrzej Duda on Wednesday that he would deploy 1,000 U.S. troops to Poland, a step sought by Warsaw to deter potential aggression from Russia.
Sergei Ryabkov, a Russian deputy foreign minister, was quoted by the state-run RIA news agency as saying that the move may reflect Washington's "aggressive intentions."
Members of Russia's parliament were quick to react to the plan, which also envisages the United States deploying military drones.
"In the event of any conflict, God forbid, the territory of Poland would become a clear target for a retaliatory strike, if there was suddenly an attack on us," Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy head of the upper house of parliament's international affairs committee, told the Interfax news agency.
Another lawmaker, ex-commander of Russia's special forces Vladimir Shamanov, who now runs the lower house of parliament's defense committee, said he was concerned about the U.S. drones because of their potential to carry nuclear weapons.
"The world is gradually slipping towards a dangerous moment comparable to the Caribbean crisis," Shamanov said, using the Russian expression for the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis — a standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
"... We will be forced to take retaliatory measures and we have them in our armory," Interfax cited him as saying.
The Russian parliament is not normally involved in the decision-making process on foreign affairs, except in situations where the Kremlin requests the upper house's formal approval for a military operation.
The Kremlin has yet to comment on the new U.S. plans for Poland but President Vladimir Putin said in an interview, published earlier on Thursday, that relations between Moscow and Washington were getting worse and worse.
The joint declaration signed by the United States and Poland said the drones being deployed in Poland were an MQ-9 Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance squadron.
MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicles come in versions that carry weapons. But IHS-Jane's Defense Weekly reported in March, citing an official U.S. military statement, that the MQ-9 Reapers used in the Polish detachment were "currently configured" for unarmed intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it sees in the mission "signs of preparations for further large-scale deployments."
Trump announced the Polish deployment ahead of a G20 summit in Japan this month, at which Trump and Putin might meet.