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Putin proposes new forms of global cooperation on missile defense

RIA Novosti

02/07/2007 22:16 KENNEBUNKPORT (U.S.), July 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's president proposed to his U.S. counterpart Monday exchanging information on missile launches and using a radar being built in southern Russia for early missile warnings.

"We are proposing to set up a data exchange center in Moscow," Vladimir Putin told a news conference following informal talks with George W. Bush at the American president's family summer retreat.

"Another center could be opened in one of Europe's capitals, for example in Brussels. This could be a complete system working in real time," Putin said.

Bush supported a concept of regional missile defenses proposed by Putin.

U.S. plans to place elements of its missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic has become one of the main issues of contention in bilateral relations, bringing them recently to their lowest point since the Cold War.

In an initial response to the U.S. move, Moscow threatened to point Russian warheads at Europe and pull out of a conventional arms reduction treaty, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), but seemingly softened its stance when Putin proposed at a Group of Eight leading industrialized nations summit in Germany to jointly use the Gabala radar in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

The Gabala radar, located near the town of Minchegaur, 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the capital Baku, was leased to Russia for 10 years in 2002.

The radar has been operational since early 1985. With a range of 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles), it is the most powerful in the region and can detect any missile launches in Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa.

During his informal talks with George W. Bush Monday, the Russian president proposed that the United States jointly use a radar being built in southern Russia, in addition to the missile early warning facility in Gabala.

"Should it prove necessary, we are ready to include not only the Gabala [radar] station [in Azerbaijan] in this [joint early warning] system," Putin said.

"We are ready to rebuild it, should such a need arise, and, if it proves insufficient, we are prepared to add a new radar station being built in the south of Russia in this system," he said.

Under the program for the development of Russia's Space Forces, a Voronezh-type early warning radar is being built in the Krasnodar Territory in southwest Russia, former Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said last December.

The Voronezh-DM radar has capabilities similar to its predecessors, the Dnepr and Daryal, but uses less energy and meets current environmental standards. It has extensive radar coverage of a territory spreading from the North Pole to northern Africa.

Construction of the new radar is expected to be completed in 2007.

"In this case, there is no need whatsoever to deploy new elements of the missile defense system in Europe, for instance, a radar station in the Czech Republic and a missile base in Poland," the Russian leader reiterated Monday.

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