In a statement reflecting the growing distrust between Moscow and the West, a top Russian general on Monday warned that Poland and the Czech Republic risk being targeted by Russian missiles if they agree to host U.S. missile defense bases.
The stark threat, by missile forces chief Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, was one of the most bellicose comments yet by Russian officials on the issue, which 10 days ago led President Vladimir Putin to warn of a "new Cold War" in a speech in Munich that shocked Western governments.
"If the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic take such a step ... the Strategic Missile Forces will be capable of targeting these facilities if a relevant decision is made," Solovtsov told reporters in Moscow, asserting the U.S. plan could upset strategic balance of power in the region.
Solovtsov spoke as Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and his Polish counterpart, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, both in Warsaw, suggested they were ready to move forward with a plan by Washington to put 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar site in the Czech Republic.
Topolanek said both countries will probably agree to the basic U.S. proposal, though they must still work out the details. "I think it is in our joint interest to negotiate this initiative and to build ... the missile defense," he said.
U.S. officials say that the 10 proposed interceptors — which they say are designed to stop a launch from the Middle East — are not aimed at Russia. Moscow, with its huge and sophisticated nuclear arsenal, could easily overwhelm such a small system simply by launching more than 10 missiles.
Putin has said he does not trust U.S. claims that the missile defense system was intended to counter threats from Iran. He has warned that Russia could take retaliatory action.
Solovtsov, speaking before the announcement in Warsaw, voiced concern that Washington could in the future expand and upgrade the anti-missile system. That could, at least in theory, limit Russia's ability to retaliate to a nuclear missile strike against its territory.
Solovtsov also said Russia could easily make new, upgraded versions of Russian intermediate-range missiles scrapped under the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, negotiated between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan in 1987, the AP reports.
Germany has also criticized the United States for failing to inform Russia and neighboring countries of details of the plan beforehand.
Warsaw and Prague say helping with the shield will tie Washington's interest to the region, but that they will also present a list of demands of what they want in return, Reuters reports.
American interception missiles are currently deployed on Alaska and in California.
Washington says that this is necessary for protecting the US’ territory from possible missile launches from North Korea.
The Pentagon’s idea is also to make North America safe from possible launches of ballistic missiles that Iran could have in prospect.
The George Bush administration had repeatedly said the US’ missile defence system is not aimed at Russia, Itar-Tass reports.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik
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