Russia might target U.S. missile shield in Poland
The U.S. missile defense system, if deployed in Poland, could become a target for Russia's defense system, a senior Russian official said here on Monday. "There are no doubts that the aim of the United States is not Iran, but control over Russia's nuclear potential," said Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the State Duma foreign policy committee. Kosachev made the remarks in response to an earlier announcement of Warsaw that it had reached an agreement with Washington on the installation of a U.S. missile defense system. Kosachev said that "involvement of any third countries, in particular Poland and the Czech Republic, make these countries hostages of and participants in the situation." Russia made its stance clear on the issue so that "it should not be a surprise for anybody" when Russia takes real action, Itar-Tass news agency quoted Kosachev as saying. The United States announced plans in January 2007 to deploy 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic as part of its European missile shield, purportedly to counter a missile threat from Iran and other "rogue" states. Russia strongly opposes the plan, claiming it is a direct threat to its security and will break the strategic balance in the region. The plan also met local resistance in Poland and the Czech Republic. The current Polish government, elected last year, was initially negative about the plan while trying to mend ties with Russia. However, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said Friday that Warsaw and the United States had agreed in principle on the deployment plan after he had received assurances that Washington would help Poland strengthen its security.
Russia lawmaker warns Poland, Czechs on U.S. shield
Poland and the Czech Republic could become targets for the Russian military if they agree to host elements of a U.S. missile defense system, Russian news agencies quoted a senior Russian lawmaker as saying on Monday. The comments by Konstantin Kosachyov, a Kremlin ally who heads the international affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, follow progress in discussions between Poland and United States on the proposed shield. "Connections between any other third countries, in this case, Poland and the Czech Republic, make these countries hostages and participants in the situation," Kosachyov was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying. "They will be making a choice, a strategic choice, that will affect the security of these countries, because the relevant U.S. systems will become a subject of control and, possibly, in the worst case, a target for Russian defense systems," Kosachyov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency. Moscow disputes U.S. statements that the missiles are intended to protect against future threats from rogue states such as Iran. It says the shield is a threat to Russian security. Russia's objections are expected to top the agenda when Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk visits Moscow on February 8. The U.S. wants to locate 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar installation in Czech Republic under the $3.5 billion plan. On February 1, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States supports modernizing Poland's air defenses, a key Polish demand for hosting part of the planned system. Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered Washington access to Russian data on missile launches if the United States drops its missile shield plan. The Pentagon regards the radar offer as a supplement to its shield, not a substitute.
Poland said Friday that it had reached an agreement in principle with the United States on plans to install a missile defense system on Polish territory. The Polish foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, said that after meetings with American officials he was satisfied that the United States would deal with security problems Poland wanted addressed. The announcement should add momentum to a project the Bush administration has said it hopes to start this year. The project, a major source of tension with Russia, had looked to be stalled since the Polish government of Donald Tusk took office in November. Mr. Sikorski did not outline the terms. But he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a joint appearance, suggested that the United States would help with Polish air defenses. Mr. Sikorski said that negotiators would continue to work on the details of an agreement that would allow the United States to install 10 interceptors as part of a missile defense system. He sought to address the concerns of Russia, which sees the plan as an attempt to undermine its military deterrent. “The reinforced Polish air defenses are not directed against anybody,” Mr. Sikorski said. “They are to enable Poland to be a stronger NATO ally with the United States, to enable Poland to take part in operations, in out-of-area operations, in joint operations.”
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U.S. and Kazakhstan snub Russia with new military deal
The United States promised Kazakhstan on Friday to help it bring its armed forces up to NATO standards in a new military cooperation pact certain to irritate Russia, Kazakhstan's former Soviet overlord. Kazakhstan's ties with Moscow have cooled over the past year as the energy-rich Central Asian state -- the biggest economy in the region and home to some of the world's largest oil fields -- seeks to pursue a more independent diplomacy. On a visit to Kazakhstan, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Mitchell Shivers signed a new five-year cooperation plan with Kazakhstan envisaging fresh U.S. assistance in matters ranging from military reform and equipment to education.
"This is a building block in the expanding partnership between our two nations," Shivers said in remarks sent to Reuters by the U.S. embassy. "As a member of NATO, the U.S. is committed to helping Kazakhstan in improving its inter-operability with equipment and training to U.S. and NATO standards." Kazakhstan inherited its military force from Russia and it relies on Moscow for most of its defense contracts. Any deviation from this tradition annoys Russia which sees Central Asia as part of its sphere of interest. Russia has long criticized NATO's military expansion towards Russia as a throwback to the Cold War and expressed displeasure when ex-Soviet Ukraine applied to NATO to take the first steps towards membership this month.
In a symbolic gesture of support for the West, Kazakhstan has sent a contingent of military engineers to assist U.S. military efforts in Iraq. Kazakhstan has, however, stressed it would continue buying hardware from Russia. Washington has also shown interest in Kazakh plans to build up its naval force on the Caspian Sea to guard its offshore oilfields and diversify arms imports. "We declare our intention to strengthen our security relationship through increased dialogue and defense military cooperation," the two sides said in a joint statement. Shivers added: "We are very excited about this expanding partnership with the Kazakhstan ministry of defense, its armed forces and the people of Kazakhstan."