London, Sept.12 : Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said that his country had no choice but to attack Georgia after it was encircled from all sides.
Speaking to reporters at his vacation home in Sochi, Putin rejected claims that he wanted to restore the Soviet empire and insisted that a fresh arms race in Europe was avoidable.
He said that his immediate concern was to defend his country's much-criticised action in Georgia.
"They attacked South Ossetia with missiles, tanks, heavy artillery and ground troops. What were we supposed to do? If his country had not invaded, he said, it would have been like Russia "getting a bloody nose and hanging its head down", and there would be a "second blow" into the north Caucasus," he stressed. Reminding his guests that he had been at the Olympics in Beijing when the crisis broke out, Putin said he was "astonished, astounded," by the world media silence on the Georgian aggression.
"What did you expect us to do? Respond with a catapult? We punched the aggressor in the face, as all the military text books prescribe," he added.
Putin also responded angrily to accusations that Moscow had used disproportionate force in Georgia, saying Russian troops were not sent into South Ossetia for 36 hours after the initial attack.
Russian forces then unleashed an aerial bombardment, tanks and ground troops but not before Georgia had captured the southern part of South Ossetia up to and including the suburbs of its capital, Tskhinvali, he said.
He adopted an even darker tone upon mention of the Pentagon's missile shield. After accusing the US of acting like "a Roman emperor", he warned Poland and the Czech Republic against hosting US missiles.
He said there was still a chance for the installations not to be activated, but warned:
"Our targeting of these countries will happen as soon as these missiles are brought. Please do not instigate an arms race in Europe. It is not needed. What should we do? Sit pretty while they deploy missiles?"
He insisted that President Dmitry Medvedev, and not he, took all decisions regarding the conflict in South Ossetia. Russia was facing problems today, he said, which demanded new solutions.