General says part of U.S. anti-missile system in Czech Republic would threaten Russia

A top general said Monday that deploying elements of a U.S. missile defense system in former Warsaw Pact nations would be a "clear threat" to Russia, emphasizing Moscow's opposition to the idea, Russian news agencies reported.

Col. Gen. Vladimir Popovkin, the chief of Russia's Space Forces, spoke two days after the Czech prime minister announced that the United States has asked to position a radar base in his country that would be part of a global missile defense system.

"Our analysis shows that that the placement of a radar station in the Czech Republic and an anti-missile position in Poland would create a clear threat for Russia," the RIA-Novosti and Interfax news agencies quoted him as saying.

U.S. efforts to deploy part of a missile defense system in former Soviet satellite states that are now NATO members has drawn repeated opposition from Russia, adding to strains between the two Cold War superpowers.

U.S. officials contend the system could defend Europe against intercontinental missiles fired by states such as Iran and North Korea, but Russian authorities have warned that the military balance in Europe could be at stake and said the development risked a new arms race.

Following the Czech prime minister's statement Saturday, Andrei Kokoshin, a former Russian Security Council chief who now heads parliament's committee for ties with former Soviet bloc nations, warned lawmakers would recommend "retaliatory measures" that would help maintain strategic stability and ensure Russia's security, reports AP.

The U.S. has been negotiating with Poland and the Czech Republic, both former communist states now in NATO, as it explores setting up missile defense sites in Eastern Europe. The U.S. request to build only an X-band radar facility in the Czech Republic could indicate Washington is considering putting launchers for anti-missile missiles in Poland.