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Russia to respond to U.S. missile shield plans in Europe

RIA Novosti

28/03/2007 17:03 MOSCOW, March 28 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will be guided by a principle of "reasonable sufficiency" in its response to U.S. missile shield plans in Europe, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper Wednesday.

"Russia is ready to open its eyes wide to unfolding developments," Lavrov said. "We cannot stay indifferent to our partners' unwillingness to consider the problem collectively, to estimate potential threats, which have not yet materialized, and to adopt and implement joint decisions," the Russian official said.

Washington has announced its intention to deploy elements of its missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, citing possible threats from Iran or North Korea as a reason for the program, and will soon begin consultations with these countries.

On Wednesday, the Czech government confirmed that it will begin official talks with the U.S. on the deployment of the system on its territory. The negotiations will start as soon as possible, and will last through the end of 2007.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has spoken out in support of the initiative, saying it met his country's national interests and would reinforce its defense capabilities and raise the security of the country and of Europe as a whole.

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski has said elements of the U.S. missile shield in Poland would guarantee that the country is no longer under Moscow's influence.

Lavrov said the United States had so far failed to offer a clear explanation of its hasty unilateral efforts, which "provoke concern."

"We will have to formulate an answer, since Russia's security should and will be ensured in any event," the Russian foreign minister said.

Lavrov believes that the U.S. plans could erode the continent's strategic stability and damage the regime of "checks and balances" in global politics.

Russia is also worried over the silos used for U.S. interceptors, which "dangerously copy the launch mechanisms for intercontinental ballistic missiles."

The minister said Russia could not move aside from the issue, since the European shield will be part of a global missile defense system, whose elements have been drawing closer to Russian borders.

"The parameters of a missile defense system in Europe are being fixed unilaterally, which affects the interests of all European countries and, of course, of Russia," the Russian minister said in an interview.

Lavrov said U.S. plans dismissed the possibility of collective missile defense efforts in Europe, and actually brushed aside the possibility of settling proliferation issues through political and diplomatic means, a tendency reflected in talks on North Korea's nuclear program and the situation surrounding Iran.

"An analysis of statements by U.S. officials prompts a conclusion that Washington does not wish to rely on relevant multilateral efforts involving its international partners," Lavrov said.

"Decisions that will determine our fate and that of future European generations are being taken without our participation," Lavrov said. "A serious discussion of the issue would be appropriate and should be held now," he concluded.

U.S. plans to deploy elements of the missile shield in Central Europe are expected to cost $1.6 billion over the next five years. The program will later be expanded to include sea-based missiles and missile tracking systems in space.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Brian Green regretted Russia's refusal to accept the missile shield, but promised to inform Moscow about progress in the program and to look into opportunities for future cooperation on the issue.

Some European Union officials, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have called on the U.S. to coordinate its missile defense program with NATO.

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