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U.S. missile shield in Europe puts Russia at risk - FM Lavrov

RIA Novosti

22/05/2007 14:22 BAKU, May 22 (RIA Novosti) - The U.S.'s unilateral decision to deploy elements of a national defense system in Central and Eastern European countries jeopardizes Russia, as well as the whole of Europe, Russia's foreign minister said Tuesday.

The U.S. announced plans in January to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland and a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic as part of its missile shield aimed at countering possible threats from "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea.

Sergei Lavrov said Moscow has never objected to joint defense against any threat as long as these efforts are collective and the threats real.

"Therefore any unilateral steps, especially those taken in haste, are effectively setting the stage for a new division of Europe," he said.

He also said Russia's possible withdrawal from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) would not harm European security.

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested recently that Russia might suspend its obligations under CFE if talks with NATO countries show no visible progress in its implementation.

"I do not think that would damage European security: Russia will in any event find ways of ensuring military-political equilibrium on the continent," he said.

NATO's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Tuesday the organization will create its own missile defense system, which would be linked to the American system.

Australia said earlier Tuesday it had joined the U.S. and Japanese missile defense plans and would consider the deployment of a missile shield on its soil.

U.S. President George W. Bush said Monday the Pentagon's plans to deploy elements of its missile shield in Central Europe were not directed against Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly condemned the plan, claiming that it could be a "destabilizing factor" and could threaten Russia's national security, and warned that "appropriate measures" would be taken in response.

The CFE Treaty was signed in 1990 by the then-22 NATO members and the now defunct Warsaw Pact to enhance arms control in Europe, and amended in 1999 in Istanbul in line with post-Cold War realities.

NATO countries have not ratified the new version, demanding that Russia first withdraw from Soviet-era bases in Georgia and Moldova under its Istanbul commitments. Moscow says there is no link between the two documents, and has argued that NATO newcomers Slovakia and the three Baltic states have not joined the CFE at all, despite preliminary agreement that they would do so.

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