Washington wants to place a radar in the Czech Republic and 10 missile interceptors in Poland, purportedly to counter a missile threat from Iran and other "rogue" states. Moscow has responded angrily to the plans, saying the European shield would destroy the strategic balance of forces and threaten Russia's national interests.
"If the Americans deploy the radar by 2011 and anti-ballistic missiles by 2012-2013, they will certainly be directed against Russia, and we can easily prove it," the Chief of the Russian General Staff, Gen. Yury Baluyevsky said in an interview with Russia Today, an English-language state TV channel.
He said those advising the U.S. president to create a global missile defense network were driven by a desire to ensure that the U.S. could strike with impunity and prevent any kind of retaliation.
He also reiterated that the alleged Iranian missile threat was used by the U.S. as a simple pretext to deploy weaponry close to Russia's borders, as Iran does not possess the technology to develop and produce long-range inter-continental ballistic missiles.
"There will be no Iranian threat to the United States in the near future. Iran will be unable to create intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States until at least 2020," he said.
"As to the European segment of the missile shield, it is certainly not aimed against Iran," he said, adding that Washington had turned down Russia's proposal to jointly monitor missile test launches in Central Asia and the Middle East.
Baluyevsky's comments came on the eve of his visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels to attend a session of the Russia-NATO Council. His talks with senior NATO officials will focus on the NATO-Russia work plan for 2007 and a variety of ongoing controversial issues, including the U.S. missile shield.
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.