The United States is essentially trying to surround Russia with its missile defense system, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in comments published yesterday (see GSN, Feb. 5).
"If we look at a map, it's clear that all of it is concentrating around our borders," he said, according to the Associated Press. "More likely in the near future, we are going to hear about hundreds, and maybe even thousands, of interceptors in various regions of the planet, including Europe."
Moscow has strenuously objected to the Bush administration's proposal to place 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic. Lavrov rejected U.S. assertions that the system is not directed at Russia but rather at a potential Iranian missile threat.
"Such a threat does not exist," he said, noting that Russia is the only nation in Eastern Europe to possess strategic ballistic missiles.
"That's why you would have to be very naive to assume that the American missile defense base in Europe is aimed against anything but Russia," he said. "It's difficult to interpret it as anything other than a manifestation of imperial thinking."
Lavrov said that "Russia does not fear 10 interceptors.
"Much more dangerous for us is the trend of American infrastructure getting closer to our borders. We don't see any justification for this step," he said. "We are talking openly with the Americans about our fears. If the plan goes through, we are going to be forced to respond adequately, developing our strategic forces near our borders" (Ryan Lucas, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, Feb. 7).
Russia has no intention of joining a new global arms race, President Vladimir Putin said today.
"It is already clear that a new arms race is being unleashed in the world," he said during a speech. "We must not allow ourselves to be drawn into this."
Russian defense spending has increased during Putin's eight-year tenure, Reuters reported. The nation has also conducted major military exercises.
Putin focused his ire on the U.S. missile defense plan and NATO "muscle-flexing" near his country.
"We drew down our bases in Cuba and Vietnam. What did we get? New American bases in Romania, Bulgaria. A new third missile defense region in Poland, where it's being built," Putin said.
Poland has not yet agreed to house the missile interceptors (Reuters/Washington Post, Feb. 8).
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was in Moscow today for one day of meetings with Putin and other Russian leaders, RIA Novosti reported. The agenda was expected to include missile defense.
Putin planned to "set out Russia's position, which is no secret to Poland," said presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko (RIA Novosti, Feb. 8).
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic and the United States have reached common ground on including the planned radar base as a component of a wider missile defense system covering NATO states, Agence France-Presse reported yesterday.
"Today, to all intents, we reached agreement on language in the agreement that discusses how a radar in the Czech Republic would contribute to the greater defense of the NATO alliance," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Rood said yesterday in Prague.
Officials did not offer details of the agreement.
On whether Prague would actually agree to house the radar base, Deputy Foreign Minister Tomas Pojar said it was "more a question of weeks than months that this agreement will be reached."
Washington has not yet fully met Prague's demands or accepted all proposals, he said (Agence France-Presse/Spacewar.com, Feb. 7).