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Russia to withdraw radar offer if U.S. missile shield goes ahead

RIA Novosti

27/05/2008 16:54 MOSCOW, May 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will withdraw its proposals for the joint use of radar stations in south Russia and Azerbaijan if the U.S. deploys its missile shield in Central Europe, a defense ministry official said Tuesday.

The U.S. plans to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the neighboring Czech Republic. Russia has fiercely opposed the idea, saying it would destroy the strategic balance of forces and offered the U.S. the use of radar stations at Armavir in southern Russia and Gabala in Azerbaijan as alternatives.

"If the U.S. deploys the third positioning unit in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia will withdraw its proposals on Armavir and Gabala," said the deputy head of the ministry's international cooperation department, Lt. Gen. Yevgeny Buzhinsky.

The offer by Russia was made as an alternative to the U.S. missile defense plans rather than in addition to them, he added.

Washington wants to deploy its missile defense elements in Central Europe purportedly to counter a missile threat from Iran and other "rogue" states. However, Russia dismisses all statements about Iran's nuclear threat saying that Tehran has neither the military potential nor interest in attacking European countries, its major trading partners.

"I find it hard to understand why the U.S., being such a pragmatic country, raises billions of dollars to track hypothetic launches of Iranian missiles," Buzhinsky said.

The defense official said that the U.S. missile shield plans had a clear "anti-Russian potential," and were a threat to Russia's national security. He added that Russia is currently preparing countermeasures to reduce the military threat, but declined to specify them.

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