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U.S. must drop European missile shield plans - Russian source

RIA Novosti

03/07/2007 11:46 MOSCOW, July 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's new defense proposals could be implemented only if the United States abandons plans to deploy elements of its missile shield in Europe, a Russian delegation source at the informal Putin-Bush talks said Tuesday.

During his two-day stay at the Bush family home in Kennebunkport, Maine, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to U.S. counterpart George W. Bush the exchange of information on missile launches and using a radar being built in southern Russia for early missile warnings.

"These proposals could be implemented only if the U.S. drops its plans to build the so called 'third missile defense ring' [in Europe] and deploy offensive weapons in space," the source said commenting on the results of the meeting.

"They [the new initiatives] would also eliminate the need [for Russia] to deploy missiles in the Kaliningrad Region [near the border with the Baltic states], and other Russian regions bordering Europe," he said.

U.S. plans to place elements of its missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic has become one of the main points 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 with Putin proposing at a Group of Eight leading industrialized nations summit in Germany the joint use of the Gabala radar in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

During his informal talks with George W. Bush Monday, Putin came forward with new initiatives to set up a missile defense data exchange center in Moscow and Brussels, where NATO headquarters is located, and suggested that the United States could jointly use a radar being built in southern Russia, in addition to the 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...but also a new radar station being built in the south of Russia," Putin said.

Under a 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.

The Russian source said Tuesday that the new proposals indicate Russia's willingness to enter global strategic partnerships [on missile defense] and to avert going back to a "Cold War" confrontation between Russia and the West.

"We are proposing global strategic partnership and the choice is with our American partners," he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. influential newspaper the Washington Post said Tuesday Putin's new bold initiatives took George W. Bush and his administration by surprise, showing "that he is serious about working together, not just posturing, as they initially suspected."

"But the two sides remained at odds over the core issue - whether Bush would deploy anti-missile facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic over the objections of Putin, who sees them as a threat to Russian security," the newspaper said.

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