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Russian military expert says U.S. to stick to missile plans

RIA Novosti

11/10/2007 18:31 MOSCOW, October 11 (RIA Novosti) - The United States will not abandon its plans to deploy elements of its missile defense system in Central Europe after the upcoming talks with Russia, a senior Russian military expert said on Thursday.

Top Russian and U.S. defense officials and diplomats are scheduled to meet in Moscow on October 12-13 to continue discussions on the U.S. missile defense system in Europe. The talks are expected to focus on Russia's offer for the U.S. to use its radars instead of deploying facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic.

"I am not optimistic about the ministerial meeting [between the respective foreign and defense ministers]," said Colonel General Viktor Yesin, the former chief of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces Main Staff.

Russia strongly opposes Washington's plans, announced early this year, to place a missile interceptor base in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic, and considers them a threat to its national security. The United States claims it needs better protection from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea.

As an alternative, Russia has offered the U.S. joint use of its radar system in Gabala, Azerbaijan, as well as that of a new radar in Armavir, in southern Russia.

Yesin said the Americans were willing to use the Russian radars, but only as the early-warning part of their missile defense system. U.S. military experts insist that they need missile interceptors in Europe, as well as radars, to control the interception of ballistic missiles.

"They [the U.S.] formally accept our proposals, but they are not willing to abandon their plans," the general said.

He said the deployment of U.S. missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic was specifically aimed at monitoring missile launches in the European part of Russia and creating the capability to intercept Russian missiles over northern Europe and the Atlantic Ocean.

The expert also reiterated his view that Washington will not limit its plans to the deployment of ten interceptors and a radar, but will continue building up its missile defenses in the future.

"The trick is the Americans are striving to build up the infrastructure in the region [Europe]," Yesin said. "It will be much easier for them to increase the number of interceptors there after they have gained a foothold in the region."

Alexander Konovalov, head of the Institute for Strategic Assessments in Moscow, also said he did not expect any breakthrough at the upcoming talks, but expressed hope that the sides would make an effort to bring their positions on the issue closer together.

"I don't expect any breakthroughs at the meeting, but some reasonable progress could be made. Both countries will be able to reach a compromise if they exert political will," the expert said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

According to Konovalov, both Russia and the United States must be willing to make certain concessions.

Russia, for example, should accept the U.S. argument that the proposed radars in Azerbaijan and southern Russia cannot fully substitute the facilities in central Europe due to technical reasons, and that they are too close to Iran to be effective for missile interception purposes.

"But as the first line of defense, as early warning elements, the Gabala and Armavir radars could be very effective," Konovalov said.

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