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Hmmm: Russia on Defensive

U.S. Rice Calls Russian Comment on Missile Defense “Extremely Unfortunate”

Created: 21.02.2007 17:47 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 18:22 MSK,

MosNews

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday that comments from a Russian general suggesting Poland and the Czech Republic could be targets if they hosted a U.S. missile shield were very unfortunate.

“I think it is unfortunate that the Russian head of strategic rocket forces would come out and say that somehow Poland and the Czech Republic would now be on the target list of Russia, I think that was an extremely unfortunate comment,” the Reuters news agency quoted the U.S. official as saying at news conference in Berlin.

Rice also repeated assurances the system does not threaten Russia. She said the system did not threaten Moscow’s forces ``and we have had the opportunity to explain that to Russia.’’

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U.S. Puzzled By Russian General’s Warning to Former Allies

Created: 21.02.2007 10:57 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 12:11 MSK

MosNews

Recent remarks by Russian officials critical of U.S. efforts to deploy missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic are “puzzling,” State Department spokesman Tom Casey was quoted by the Kyodo news agency as saying on Tuesday.

“I think we find it hard to believe that he’s really speaking on behalf of the Russian government on this issue,” Casey said regarding Monday’s comments by the commander of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces, Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov.

Solovstov is reported to have said that if the missile defense system is deployed, that could lead Moscow to target former allies with its own missiles.

Casey dismissed allegations that the European missile defense system could threaten Russia, saying, “The system that’s being put in place is designed to counter threats from the Middle East or from other potential rogue states out there, and it’s something that we’re sharing with our European friends and allies and, frankly, with the entire international community, including, we would hope, Russia.”

It’s for defensive purposes,“ Casey also said, adding, ”Certainly their defense experts have had extensive consultations with folks on our side and understand that this system is not intended as a threat to Russia, and frankly, is incapable of providing a threat to Russia.“

The United States began briefing the Russians on the missile defense system beginning in 2004 and since March 2006, ”there have been more than 10 instances where we’ve had senior-level officials get together to discuss the details of our missile defense plan,“ Casey said.

However, Solovtsov’s remarks were only the latest in a series of statements by Russian officials critical of U.S. foreign policy in general and the missile defense issue in particular.

”As regards the U.S. missile defense system, we do not see objective motives for deploying these elements in Europe and do not think that the threats that have been cited to rationalize this deployment, namely North Korea and Iran, are sufficient for such radical shifts in strategic stability,“ Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said according to a Feb. 9 report by Russian news agency Interfax.

”One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way,“ Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a speech Feb. 10 at a security policy conference in Munich.

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Czech Republic Accuses Russia of Intimidation, Says Will Build Up Defense

Created: 20.02.2007 17:06 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 17:06 MSK

MosNews

The Czech Republic said on Tuesday it would not be intimidated by Russia over plans to site parts of a U.S. missile defence system on its soil, and said attempts at “blackmail” by Moscow would backfire.

the Reuters news agency quoted Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg sas saying that threats by Russian officials over the plans, which would involve placing a radar system on Czech territory and a missile battery in Poland, would only make Czechs more determined to defend themselves.

Russia’s strategic forces commander, General Nikolai Solovtsov, said on Monday that Russia would be capable of firing missiles at the Czech Republic and Poland if the ex-communist states agreed to host the U.S. defence system.

“The Czechs will now think the shield is even more necessary,” Schwarzenberg told Reuters on the sidelines of a business conference in Warsaw.

“We have quite an experience with Russians. You have to make clear to them you won’t succumb to blackmail. Once you give in to blackmail, there’s no going back. We have to be strong.”

The United States wants Poland and Czech Republic to host elements of its multi-billion dollar global system designed to counter missiles fired by what Washington calls “rogue states” such as Iran and North Korea.

Moscow views the system as an attempt to shift the post-Cold War balance of power, and relations between Moscow and Washington have soured since the announcement of the U.S. plans.

Both the Polish and the Czech prime ministers have said their countries would likely say accept the installations, which would tie their interests to Washington in the long term and bolster their security.

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski told Polish radio on Tuesday the comments by Solovtsov were “an attempt to scare”.

Czech Prime Minister Topolanek summoned Russia’s ambassador in Prague for “consultations” to take place later this week, a spokesman to Topolanek said.