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Russia may scrap missile deal over U.S. shield - military expert

RIA Novosti

10/07/2008 16:16 MOSCOW, July 10 (RIA Novosti) - Russia may respond to U.S. plans for missile defense bases in Central Europe with a host of measures, including the withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a senior military expert said on Thursday.

President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday that Russia would respond to the U.S. missile shield program in Central Europe, adding that Moscow was "dismayed" by the signing of a U.S.-Czech missile deal. He did not specify what steps Russia would take.

In an interview with the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily, Col. Gen. Viktor Yesin, a former commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, said Moscow could deploy tactical Iskander-M missiles in the Kaliningrad Region, from where they could reach U.S. ground based interceptors in Poland, and also station there strategic bombers, primarily Tu-22 M3s, armed with long-range cruise missiles.

He said Moscow could also call a stop to the disbanding of a missile division based in the town of Kozelsk, central Russia, in accordance with the U.S.-Russian Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (May 2002), and deploy advanced hypersonic missiles there, which can effectively penetrate missile defenses.

Gen. Yesin stressed that such measures would not be in conflict with Russia's international obligations.

Moscow has strongly opposed the possible deployment by the U.S. of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic as a threat to its security and nuclear deterrence. Washington says the defenses are needed to deter possible strikes from "rogue states."

The Czech president said on Wednesday he was ready to put his signature to a U.S.-Czech missile shield agreement.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg signed an agreement on Tuesday on the deployment of a missile-tracking radar on Czech soil.

First Deputy Foreign Minister Tomas Pojar has said the Czech parliament could ratify the deal by the end of the year.

Russia has offered the United States the use of its radar stations in Armavir in southern Russia and Gabala in Azerbaijan as alternatives, but Washington said they could only be used as "supplements," if at all.

Schwarzenberg earlier said that NATO could discuss the possible use of the Gabala radar after Russia's lease expires.

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