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Missile shield 'threatens Russia'

BBC | January 22, 2007

Russia has criticised a decision by the US to expand its embryonic missile defence shield to the Czech Republic and Poland.
A senior Russian military commander said the plan was "an obvious threat".

On Sunday the US asked for permission to build a missile defence base on Czech territory - a move backed by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek.

Washington says it needs interceptor missiles in Europe to stop attacks by states like Iran or North Korea.

It hopes to build a radar station in the Czech Republic and to site interceptors in Poland.

But Moscow insists that the installation of US missiles in countries close to its western border would change the strategic balance in Europe.

Lt Gen Vladimir Popovkin, commander of Russia's space forces, said Moscow would interpret the move as a military threat.

"Our analysis shows that the deployment of a radar station in the Czech Republic and a counter-missile position in Poland are an obvious threat to us.

"It is very doubtful that elements of the national US missile defence system in eastern Europe were aimed at Iranian missiles, as has been stated," he said.

Political issues

Mr Topolanek, the Czech prime minister, has welcomed the US request.

"We are convinced that a possible deployment of the radar station on our territory is in our interest," he said at the weekend.

"It will increase security of the Czech Republic and Europe."

However, Mr Topolanek could face a struggle having the plans approved by both houses of the country's parliament.

His three-party, centre-right governing coalition recently won a vote of confidence, but controls just 100 of 200 seats in the lower house.

There is domestic opposition to the scheme in the Czech Republic, with reports that 200 protesters rallied against the missile defence plans in Prague on Monday.

The US has already built missile interceptor sites in Alaska and in California, but says it needs to expand into Europe to counter growing threats from further afield.


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