Prague (AFP) Feb 20, 2007
Poland and the Czech Republic lashed out at Russian "intimidation" Tuesday after Moscow threatened to place the countries on its missile target list if they agreed to host a US missile defence system. "It is clearly an attempt to intimidate," Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said on public radio in response to the Russian threat.
Czech politicians said the Russian rhetoric only underlined the value of a US missile defence system, even though Washington has insisted it would not be directed at Russia but at Iran and North Korea.
"If we give in once to blackmail, we will have nowhere else to go," Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said.
Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra told the Dnes daily that Moscow's bellicose stance "represents exactly the reason why we need to have an anti-missile defence."
General Nikolai Solovtsov, the head of Russia's strategic missile force, said on Monday that Moscow could rapidly restart its Cold War missile production lines if any such US facility appeared in central Europe.
"If the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic take such a decision, the strategic missile force will be able to aim at these installations," he said.
Russia, he said, could decide to withdraw from a Cold War-era treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), signed by Moscow and Washington in 1987 in a bid to reduce missile arsenals.
"If the political decision is taken to withdraw from this treaty the strategic missile force will be ready to fulfil this task," Solovtsov said at a news conference.
While Russia had destroyed all its medium-range missiles under the treaty, "all the technical documentation remains and restarting their production will not be difficult," he said.
The INF was recently described as a "relic" of the Cold War by Sergei Ivanov, formerly Russia's defence minister and now a first deputy prime minister.
"We don't belong to you any more," shouted Czech daily Lidove Noviny on Tuesday in response to the general's remarks.
The Czech Republic and Poland were members of the Soviet Union until 1989, when both countries severed their allegience to Moscow and turned west. Both are now members of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
Moscow's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday accused Washington of trying to turn the clock back to the Cold War era, and called for a "frank discussion" on the matter. "A policy of force is hard to qualify other than as an attempt to return to the past," he said, referring to the Cold War.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who is completing a trip to Poland on Tuesday where he discussed the proposed US defence system, is expected to meet the Russian ambassador on his return to Prague.
Despite public opposition, Warsaw and Prague are generally in favour of the US plan and on Monday decided to cooperate in negotiations with Washington. "It is in our interests to negotiate on this issue. It is in the interests of our countries to host the anti-missile shield," Topolanek said Monday after meeting Kaczynski.
The plans would see a radar station set up in the Czech Republic and an underground missile silo installed in Poland.
A NATO spokesman on Monday said Russia's threats were "uncalled for" but the United States has also come in for criticism over its handling of the issue.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said Washington "should have discussed it with Russia" before seeking agreement from Poland and the Czech republic.
He called for "a prudent approach and an intensive dialogue with all the partners directly or indirectly concerned."
In an anti-American speech in Munich on February 8, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the defence project "has nothing to do with real threats in the world" and argued that, alongside other measures taken by NATO, it threatened Russia's interests.
earlier related report
Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, told a Moscow press conference Monday that the Strategic Missile Forces would be able to track down and if necessary target U.S. ballistic missile defense radars and missiles if they were ever deployed in Central Europe.
He was responding to statements from the Polish and Czech governments that they were considering requests from Washington to deploy BMD assets on their territory.
"If the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic make such a decision, the Strategic Missile Forces will be able to target these systems," Nikolai Solovtsov said.
Solovtsov also said Russia possessed the technology and the capability to resume production of intermediate- and short-range missiles in the near future.
"It is not difficult for us to restart the production of the medium- and short-range missiles because we have preserved all technologies," he said. "It could be done quickly if the need arises.
"If a political decision is taken to quit the (Intermediate Nuclear Forces) treaty, the Strategic Missile Forces are ready to carry out this task," Solovtsov said.
Solovtsov's tough talk followed hard on the heels of a warning last Thursday from his boss, four-star Army Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, the Chief of the Russian General Staff, that Russia may unilaterally scrap the nearly 20-year-old INF.
"It is possible for a party to abandon the treaty (unilaterally) if it provides convincing evidence that it is necessary to do so," said Baluyevsky. "We currently have such evidence."
The INF treaty was a cornerstone of detente between the United States and the Soviet Union,. Signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and last Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on Dec. 8, 1987, it scrapped intermediate range nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 300 miles to 3,400 miles.
"By the treaty's deadline of June 1, 1991, a total of 2,692 such weapons had been destroyed, 846 by the U.S. and 1,846 by the Soviet Union," RIA Novosti said.
Baluyevsky's remarks sounded as a strong warning to the U.S. regarding its plans to deploy elements of its anti-missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic," the Russian news agency said.
Source: Agence France-Presse
Source: United Press International
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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.
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