Moscow rings alarm bells on missile shield
MOSCOW - The Associated PressThe Russian military must prepare to counter U.S. missile defense plans in Europe even as talks between Moscow and Washington are ongoing, President Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday.
Medvedev told a meeting of Russia’s top military brass that the country “isn’t shutting the door to dialogue,” but nevertheless must get ready to take military countermeasures. The U.S. says the NATO missile defense plan is aimed at deflecting potential missile threats from Iran, but Moscow fears that in the next few years it will grow powerful enough to undermine Russia’s nuclear deterrent.
“By 2017-2018 we must be fully prepared, fully armed,” Medvedev said in televised comments, referring to his earlier threat to aim missiles at the U.S.-led NATO missile shield if no agreement is reached. NATO has said it wants to cooperate with Russia on the missile shield, but the alliance has rejected Russia’s proposal to run it jointly. “Even though the talks are ongoing, we must get ready for a serious rearming of the armed forces so that we could be in a due shape and capable to respond to the missile defense in Europe,” Medvedev said.
Turkey hosts a radar system in the eastern province of Malatya as part of the NATO anti-missile project. Besides the radar in Turkey, the defense shield also contains interceptor missiles stationed in Romania and Poland, four ballistic missile defense-capable ships in Rota, Spain, and an operational headquarters in Germany.
Tensions over the system have strained ties between Moscow and Washington. They are expected to flare up again in May when Vladimir Putin heads to the United States shortly after being sworn in for his third presidential term. Russian officials have voiced skepticism that Russia and the U.S. could reach an agreement in the short time left before the trip.