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“We’ll spend the next nine to 10 months trying to work through some of these technical aspects of what’s a very complex proposal,” she said.

She reiterated that the U.S.-built system is designed to shoot down only Iranian intermediate-range missiles that could hit Europe, and would not be effective against Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

In the initial stages, the system will use radar based in Turkey and ship-based Aegis missiles. In the later stages, new radar stations and ground-based interceptors in Poland and Romania will be integrated into the system.

The system, which still is being developed, is a scaled-back version of the missile shield proposed during the George W. Bush administration.

But Russian officials insist the missile-defense system will rob their nuclear deterrent of its credibility and destabilize the balance of mutually assured destruction that has persisted since the Cold War.

“A thorough analysis by the Defense Ministry’s research organizations showed that once the third and fourth stages are deployed, the capability to intercept Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles will be real,” Gen. Makarov said.

Robert L. Pfaltzgraff Jr., a professor of international security studies at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, noted that while ICBMs fly faster than shorter-range missiles and the technology to intercept them is different, the Kremlin sees these deployments as providing a basis for a better system later.

“The Russian concern is that these systems could be upgraded in the future,” he said.

But Mr. Pfaltzgraff said the fact that Moscow is thinking in these terms proves Russia is not a U.S. ally and has “divergent interests from us and to pretend otherwise to try and placate them is a fool’s errand.

Russia wants a deterrent relationship with the United States,” he said. “Why? Is Canada worried that they don’t have an effective deterrent against our nuclear weapons?”

In Moscow, Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov indicated that the “red line” for Russia would be the deployment of ground-based interceptor missiles, estimated to happen in 2018 at the earliest.

“Red lines are a dangerous game,” said Mr. Ludes. “This has been simmering for years.”

“The Russians have opposed U.S. plans, whether offered by the Bush administration or the Obama administration. But the fact that they would make this kind of public threat gives us an idea of just how strongly they feel about it,” Mr. Ludes said.

Gen. Makarov said the Russians have set “only one condition [to agree to NATO deployment of the system]: the zone of possible interception for current and future missile-defense weapon systems should not cross the border of Russia.”

U.S. officials have rejected any deal that would put limits on the capabilities of the system, or on how many would be deployed.

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