Russia warns of strike

Russia warns of strike

MOSCOW
Russia warns of strike

REUTERS photo

Russia’s top military officer has threatened to deal a pre-emptive strike on U.S.-led NATO missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe if Washington goes ahead with its controversial missile defense plan, despite the NATO chief saying the alliance remains hopeful of reaching an agreement with Russia.

Outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last year Russia will retaliate militarily if it does not reach an agreement with the United States and NATO. Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov yesterday went further, raising the ante in the missile defense controversy.

“A decision to use destructive force pre-emptively will be taken if the situation worsens,” he said at the Moscow missile-defense conference which is being attended by senior U.S. and NATO officials, non-NATO European nations and countries such as China and India.

‘Talks are close to dead end’

“The deployment of new strike weapons in Russia’s south and northwest, including of Iskander systems in Kaliningrad, is one of our possible options for destroying the system’s European infrastructure,” Makarov said. The generals backed up their argument by unfurling a projection screen before visiting dignitaries from 50 countries and playing graphics of how NATO missiles could eliminate Russian rockets by the end of the decade. “A thorough analysis by the defense ministry’s research organizations showed that once the third and fourth stages are deployed, the capability to intercept Russian inter-continental ballistic missiles will be real,” Makarov said. Washington says the shield, due to be completed in four phases by roughly 2020, is meant to counter a potential threat from Iran. The shield’s first phase is to be declared up and running at the summit in Chicago.

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov also warned that talks between Moscow and Washington on the U.S.-led NATO missile defense plan in Europe are “close to a dead end.” Moscow rejects Washington’s claim that the plan is solely to deal with any Iranian missile threat and has voiced fears it will eventually become powerful enough to undermine Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

A top Russian defense official reiterated Moscow’s offer to run the missile shield in partnership with NATO. Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said such a jointly run European missile defense system “could strengthen security of every single country of the continent” and “would be adequate to possible threats and will not deter strategic security.” NATO has said it wants to cooperate with Russia on the missile shield, but the alliance has rejected Moscow’s proposal to run it jointly.

“I’m hopeful that we can,” NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said when asked whether NATO could reach an agreement with the Russians. Speaking after talks in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Rasmussen said an agreement would “obviously” not be reached before a NATO summit in Chicago on May 20 and 21. “We will continue our dialogue with Russia ...after the Chicago meeting,” he told reporters.

The conference in Moscow is the last major Russia-U.S. meeting about military issues before the NATO summit in Chicago. Russia hasn’t said whether it will send top officials there.

Putin, NATO, USA, Russia