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US missile defense in Europe could drag Russia into arms race - gen.

RIA Novosti

16/03/2007 15:22 MOSCOW, March 16 (RIA Novosti) - U.S. missile defense deployment in Europe could drag Russia into a new arms race, a senior Russian air defense commander said Friday.

"This is a very urgent and politically important issue, and could drag us into a new arms race," Colonel-General Yury Solovyov, commander of the Air Defense Forces Special Command (former Moscow Military District Air Defense Command), told journalists.

The United States plans to deploy a radar installation in the Czech Republic and a missile base in Poland by 2011-2012, saying the shield is needed to counter possible attacks from Iran. But Russia objects to the plans, treating them as a security threat.

Solovyov said the deployment will not be a threat to Russia, but "could be bad for Russia because our potential adversaries will constantly monitor Russia's territory."

The chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Yury Baluyevsky, said in an interview with the daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta in February that unilateral U.S. action could damage the balance of power in Europe and undermine Russia's nuclear deterrence potential.

Solovyov also said the first air defense regiment equipped with a new air defense system will be put on combat duty by June 1.

"This year we plan to put on combat duty one of our regiments [equipped with S-400]," he said.

An air defense system manufacturer said February 27 the first air defense regiment equipped with new S-400 Triumf ground-to-air missile systems will be put on combat duty in the Moscow Region in the middle of 2007.

The Military-Industrial Commission, which answers directly to the Russian president, met on that day to consider prospects for a fifth-generation air defense system and building aerospace defenses in the country.

"The [new] regiment will have more [missile] batteries than regiments currently equipped with S-300 air defense systems," said Alexander Lemansky, chief designer at the Almaz Science and Production Association.

Lemansky said new S-400 systems considerably differed from S-300 systems by their effective firing range, firing capacity and other parameters.

The S-300 (SA-10 Grumble) anti-aircraft missile system was designed to protect military and industrial facilities from mass air strikes. A missile launched from the system can travel at a speed of 2,000 meters per second and is capable of hitting a target at a distance of 150 km (93 miles) flying at a height of up to 30 km (19 miles) and at a speed of up to 10,000 km/h (6,215 mph).

"The effective firing range of the new [S-400] system is twice that of the previous S-300 [system] and its firing capacity is more than double," Lemansky said.

First Deputy Prime Minister and former defense minister Sergei Ivanov, who oversees defense-related sectors and chairs today's meeting of the commission, earlier said new S-400 Triumf ground-to-air missile systems were adopted for service in late 2006 and will be placed on alert duty later this year.

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