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German FM Raps US Approach To Missile Shield Plan

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
by Staff Writers
Berlin (AFP) Feb 18, 2007
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier criticised the United States on its plan to station missiles for a defence shield in central Europe, in an interview to be published Monday. Steinmeier told the daily Handelsblatt that Washington would have been better advised to consult with all the countries that would be affected by the move, including Russia.

"One should have spoken with Russia earlier as the sites where they (the missiles) are to be stationed are edging closer to Russia," he said.

"Considering the strategic nature of such projects, I call for a prudent approach and intensive dialogue with all partners who are directly or indirectly affected."

The United States last month said it would soon begin formal talks with the Czech Republic and Poland on deploying a missile defence system in Europe, designed to intercept potential attacks from Iran and North Korea.

The system calls for missiles to be deployed in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic by 2012. Russia has strongly objected to having the missiles and radar system stationed on its doorstep, in countries which used to be part of the communist bloc.

Steinmeier said there was no indication that Iranian missiles could reach the regions where the defence system is to be stationed.

"That is not the case according to maps with the range of the missiles under current Iranian weapons technology," he said.

US missile shield no threat to Russia: NATO chief
Warsaw (AFP) Feb 16 - NATO military chief General John Craddock on Thursday said US plans to put a missile defence system on Russia's doorstep were moving forward transparently and did not target Russia.

"I think it has been clearly stated as to what the United States' intent is and that is to provide defence capability against missile attacks from a rogue nation, if you like," Craddock told a press conference in Warsaw. Washington last month announced it had begun formal talks with Poland and the Czech Republic on the defence shield, which US officials say is aimed at thwarting missile attacks from Iran or North Korea.

The proposal has outraged Russia.

At a security conference in Munich last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin questioned why the US missile shield had to be so close to Russia's border.

And on Thursday, Russian army chief Yury Baluevsky warned that Russia could withdraw from a treaty limiting short and medium-range missiles if the United States places the missile defence system in the Czech Republic and Poland, both former communist states and now members of NATO and the EU.

"NATO will obviously watch this... but it will be by negotiations among nations that reasonable men will reach reasonable conclusions," Craddock said.

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Thursday he was in favour, under certain conditions, of Poland housing missiles for the defence shield.

His Czech counterpart, Mirek Topolanek, has given his backing to the Czech Republic housing radars for the facility.

Craddock also said he could not understand why in his speech last week in Munich Putin had expressed strong opposition to further expansion of NATO.

"The NATO alliance is composed of 26 nations and they are all democracies," the four-star US general said.

"If there is an expansion to the border of Russia by democratic nations, I do not understand why that should be something to fear."

earlier related report
Polish Deputy Premier Opposes US Missile Shield Plan
Warsaw (AFP) Feb 17 - Polish Deputy Prime Minister Andrzej Lepper said Saturday that he opposed plans for Poland to house missiles for a defence shield that Washington wants to set up in central Europe. "Our position is clear. We are against the shield," Lepper told reporters, distancing himself from Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who on Thursday said that the government was in favour of the plan under certain conditions.

"We lack information about the plan," said Lepper, head of the populist Samoobrona party which is a junior member of the coalition government led by Kaczynski's conservative Law and Justice party.

"We also need to take into account the views of our neighbours, whether it's Ukraine, Russia or Belarus. We can't ignore them," Lepper said.

The United States last month said it would soon begin formal talks with the Czech Republic and Poland on deploying a missile defence system in Europe, designed to intercept potential attacks from Iran and North Korea.

The system calls for missiles to be deployed in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic by 2012. Russia has strongly objected to having the missiles and radar system stationed on its doorstep, in countries which used to be part of the communist bloc.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Prague and Warsaw that they will face repercussions if they accept Washington's request.

The head of the Russian armed forces, General Yury Baluyevsky, warned Thursday that Moscow could withdraw from a treaty limiting short and medium-range missiles if the US defence system goes ahead.

Ukraine has also said that it sees the plan as a threat to its security.

Lepper had already called for a public vote on the issue, but Kaczynski said he saw "no sense" in holding a referendum on the issue.

New Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has also spoken out in favour of the US missile shield, and likewise ruled out putting the issue to a popular vote.

According to the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Kaczynski has promised Washington an answer by the end of this month.

The newspaper said that among the guarantees Warsaw is seeking from the United States are help to boost Poland's anti-aircraft defence systems, increased cooperation between Polish and US intelligence, and more efforts by Washington to calm Russia's concerns.

earlier related report
Russian Ire At US Shield Not A Sign Of Cold War Return
Brussels (AFP) Feb 18 - Russia's threat to beef up its military in the face of US plans for a missile shield system in central and eastern Europe would not mean a re-run of the Cold War, analysts say.

Washington says that its planned missile shield installations in Poland and the Czech Republic are not aimed at keeping Moscow at bay but instead at intercepting missiles fired from "rogue states" like Iran or North Korea.

A missile fired from northern Iran at the US east coast would fly over central Europe, and "the time available for interception would be three to five minutes," according to a NATO military expert.

The plans have clearly riled Moscow, which was already uneasy about the increasingly pro-Western stance of many countries in the former Soviet bloc, states that it sees as within its traditional sphere of influence.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stunned officials and academics gathered at a security conference here with a vehement attack on US leadership in the world.

A former KGB spy, Putin charged that the United States had "overstepped its borders in all spheres," creating a dangerous "uni-polar" world that had brought war, ruin and insecurity.

He attacked the US missile defence shield plans and questioned the intentions behind NATO's eastwards expansion.

A Russian foreign ministry spokesman said last month that the plan was "a mistaken step with negative consequences for international security."

And General Vladimir Popovkin, who commands a division of the Russian army in charge of space technology, said in January that "our analysis shows that the location of the US base would be a clear threat to Russia."

To underline the point, Russia has announced that it is beefing up its intercontinental missile arsenal and has threatened to withdraw from the 1987 INF Treaty with Washington limiting short and medium range missiles in Europe.

For Etienne de Durand, a security expert at the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI) in Paris, "Moscow's gesticulations are more to do with grumpiness and a historically understandable feeling about the loss of its former protective glaze in eastern Europe than with military reality."

"The deployment of missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometres (300 to 3,500 miles) facing off east to west is a very 'Cold War' scenario that is outdated today. Faced with danger the Russians have the possibility of reprogramming the aiming of all the kinds of weapons that they possess."

"Of course, Russia is going to perhaps have to upgrade its satellite warning system, which, according to certain sources, is no longer in very good condition."

But Moscow, Durand said, now finds itself with the financial means to modernise its arsenal.

To protect itself from ballistic missiles with a range of more than 5,000-6,000 kilometres, the US has invested in three systems:

- A national system, based in Alaska and California, of interceptors intervening in a missile terminal phase when it returns to the Earth's atmosphere;

- An orbital system, capable of destroying missiles in the middle of their trajectory, but which is yet to become operational;

- An advanced missile system, positioned outside US territory to counter missiles at the launch stage, with two already existing bases at Fylingdales in England and Thule in Greenland.

It was for this system that the United States announced neogtiations with Poland and the Czech Republic on January 22 to install 10 interceptors and a radar system.

But according to the findings of a study by French military think-tank CEREMS, Russia retains the advantage with the latest generation of its SS-27 Topol-M intercontinental missile.

According to the French, the missile's sheer speed and manoeuvrability make it the ideal intercontinental weapon despite the US' myriad anti-ballistic measures.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Europe Might Consider Own Missile Defence System
Baku (AFP) Feb 19, 2007
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday said Europe was considering its own missile defence system in parallel to a shield the United States wants to put up in Eastern Europe. But Steinmeier, who has criticized the United States for not discussing its planned missile shield with Russia, said acknowledged that Europe does not yet have the technological know-how to build a rival to the US system.

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