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Russia Protests US Missile Shield But Vows To Avoid Arms Race

Graphic showing the workings of the anti-missile defence shield that the US wants to install in the Czech Republic and Poland, much to Russia's anger. Graphic courtesy AFP.
by Lorne Cook
Seville (AFP) Feb 9, 2007
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov protested Friday against US plans to set up a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic and vowed that Moscow would take steps to counter it. Speaking after talks with NATO defence ministers, he raised doubts about the purpose of the US plan and said that if Washington were serious it should base missile interceptors closer to perceived threats such as Iran and North Korea.

"We will develop our own strategic systems which have the capability to surpass any anti-missile system," he told reporters in Seville, southern Spain, but said: "It doesn't mean that we will threaten anybody."

"We want to be certain that under no circumstances will we be put under political or military pressure," he said.

But Ivanov added: "If anyone wants to get us involved in an arms race, I would like to say we will not be drawn back into one again."

Some experts believe that the US-Soviet arms race which gathered pace after the United States began developing a missile shield in the 1980s contributed to the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

Washington confirmed last month plans to start talks on a defence system to deal with "rogue threats" which would include a base with 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar threat detection system in the Czech Republic.

But Ivanov cast doubt about real US ambitions.

"What is the real intention of this?" he said.

"As far as North Korea is concerned, you just have to look at the map to see where North Korea is located and that this has nothing to do with this problem."

"Iran does possess intermediate-range missiles with a current range of around 1,800 kilometres. Once again, look at the map and figure out what territories can be reached by Iranian missiles."

"Yes indeed, they can reach the Russian federation and Israel," he said.

"Why don't our US partners deploy the system in the territories of their allies, for instance in Iraq, Afghanistan or Turkey? Any missiles could be intercepted from there," Ivanov went on.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who held bi-lateral talks with his Russian counterpart on Thursday, reaffirmed that the US shield poses no threat to Moscow.

"I was actually was the one who raised it, basically what we're planning to do and again it posed no threat to Russia," he told reporters during a pause in the NATO meeting.

"We've made it quite clear to them that it is not directed to them, and in fact in India (Ivanov) acknowledged no threat to Russia or its strategic deterrent," he said.

Ahead of the meeting, Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova urged her NATO allies to have the issue put on the agenda.

"We will not ensure liberty and security by burying our heads in the sand or by wanting to get rid of all the positions of US military presence in Europe. That is not the way to world peace," she said Tuesday.

The US request for an installation on Czech soil is supported by the centre-right government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, and has spawned a vigorous debate in the country.

Opponents, led by the Communist Party, have organised three protests to denounce the plan, while the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, have called for a referendum on the question.

Local mayors are also reluctant to host a US base due to public hostility.

In Kiev, meanwhile, the pro-Russian Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has slammed the plan as "a threat, especially for Ukraine" and said that his country should have been consulted, according to the Interfax news agency.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Congressional Research Service Skepticism On BMD Grows
Washington (UPI) Feb 08, 2007
The U.S. armed forces have demonstrated no learning curve in their development of kinetic energy interceptors to destroy incoming ballistic missiles, an updated congressional report claims. The report is entitled "Kinetic Energy Kill for Ballistic Missile Defense: A Status Overview." It was written by Steven A Hildreth, a specialist in national defense in the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division of the Congressional Research Service, and an updated version of his report was released on Jan. 5.

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