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Russian top brass hopes East Europe will deny U.S. air shield

RIA Novosti

13/03/2007 13:29

MOSCOW, March 13 (RIA Novosti) - A top Russian military official said Tuesday he hoped East European NATO countries would refuse to deploy U.S. air defense missiles on their territory.

The United States recently announced plans to build a radar installation in the Czech Republic and a missile base in Poland in the next five years. The U.S. insists that the European missile shield is designed to counter possible attacks from "rogue states," including Iran and North Korea.

"I think everyone will understand that they must not do it," Air Force Commander Vladimir Mikhailov said during a meeting with foreign Air Force attaches.

Moscow has strongly objected to the proposed deployment of the shield in Central Europe as a national security threat and a destabilizing factor for Europe, and has long been concerned about the further eastward expansion of NATO.

Russia's concerns increased March 1, when a senior Pentagon official said Washington "would like to station a radar base in the Caucasus." The announcement evoked suspicions in Moscow that NATO-oriented Georgia could be a possible site. Georgian officials have denied the possibility.

A NATO official reiterated last week that the U.S. initiative was not aimed against Russia, and that bilateral missile defense projects were common practice among NATO members.

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