Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Russia warns US on placing missile defenses in Poland

Russia warned the United States on Tuesday against basing elements of a planned missile defense system in Poland, saying this would undermine strategic stability and require a ‘corresponding’ response from Moscow, Interfax news agency said.

‘This could have a negative impact on strategic stability, regional security and the relations between states,’ Interfax quoted ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin as saying in an interview.

‘Such a new situation objectively requires corresponding measures from us,’ Kamynin said.

He did not specify what those measures would be. Russia, however, announced earlier this year that it was supplying Belarus -- an ex-Soviet republic wedged between Russia and Poland -- with its sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft defense system.

The United States has for years been planning and testing elements of a new global anti-missile defense system that would combine space-based elements capable of detecting hostile missile launches with ground-based rockets that would track and destroy those missiles.

Washington has consistently stated that the objective of the planned system is to protect the United States and allies from ballistic missile launches from what it terms ‘rogue’ states such as North Korea or Iran, and has insisted that it is not aimed against any other party.

With equal consistency however, Moscow has made clear its deep unease at the planned US system. Most recently, the chief of staff of Russia’s armed forces, General Yuri Baluyevsky, warned that the planned US system could ignite a new Cold War-style arms race.

‘First of all, we take a critical view of this plan,’ Kamynin told Interfax.

‘On such issues, we cannot be satisfied simply with assurances that ‘there are no plans’ for US and NATO anti-missile defense in Europe to be directed against Russia,’ the ministry spokesman added.

Poland, once a close ally of Moscow that has become a key defense partner for Washington over the past decade, has mad no secret of its willingness to consider deployment on its territory of elements of the planned US system.

‘Russia has very frankly communicated its unhappiness to us, the prospect of the US planting a missile defense base in Poland,’ Stars and Stripes, the daily newspaper of the US armed forces, quoted Polish Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski as saying last month.

‘Clearly, we have to take this Russian view, a powerful neighbor of ours, into account. And that makes us even more insistent on a package of measures that would hypothetically come with a missile defense base, if the US asks for it,’ the paper quoted him as saying.

It said that Poland was one of only two countries -- the other being the Czech Republic -- that has said it would in theory be open to hosting US missile defense units.

The paper noted that a possible deployment of US missile interceptors in Poland ‘would represent the first permanent US military presence in the country.’