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Russia's army chief to talk missile defense in U.S. December 3-7

RIA Novosti

03/12/2007 14:47 MOSCOW, December 3 (RIA Novosti) - Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, chief of the Russian General Staff, will discuss bilateral military issues, including the U.S. missile shield in Europe, during a five-day visit to the U.S., which starts on Monday, a military source said.

During his U.S. trip December 3 through 7, Baluyevsky is due to meet with the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen and visit Kings Bay naval submarine base in southeast Georgia.

"The negotiations will focus on missile defense, the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) and bilateral military contacts," the source in Russia's Defense Ministry said.

Moscow has a number of controversial issues with Washington, including U.S. plans to deploy a radar in the Czech Republic and 10 missile interceptors in Poland, purportedly to counter a missile threat from Iran and other "rogue" states.

Russia has fiercely opposed U.S. plans to deploy new missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic, suggesting that Washington use radars on Russian soil to counter possible missile threats.

The two countries have held a series of talks on the issue, but so far failed to reach a compromise.

Baluyevsky blasted last week the latest U.S. missile defense cooperation offer and said Russia would never agree to a role as a "cost-free addition" to the U.S. missile shield.

The future of the CFE treaty, which Western countries consider a cornerstone of European security, is another disputed issue in bilateral relations.

Moscow considers the CFE treaty to be discriminatory and outdated since it does not reflect the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the breakup of the Soviet Union, or recent NATO expansion.

Russia is particularly concerned about the so called flank limitations under the CFE treaty, which essentially prohibits Moscow from reinforcing its military contingents in the North Caucasus military district and in northwest Russia's Leningrad military district.

President Vladimir Putin signed on November 30 a law to freeze Russia's participation in the CFE treaty. The unilateral CFE moratorium becomes effective at midnight on December 12.

Addressing Russian lawmakers on November 16, Baluyevsky said Russia's decision was legitimate and justified, despite strong criticism from the West.

"They [NATO and the U.S.] were hoping up to the last minute that Russia would soften its stance, that it would not adopt the moratorium," Baluyevsky said. "But we must make this step...both from the political and the military points of view."

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