- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 16, 2007

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s top military officer yesterday accused the United States of seeking direct confrontation with Moscow and warned again that U.S. plans to deploy missile defenses in Europe would destabilize the continent.

Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky spoke at a joint press conference along with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak, who repeated that Russia would not increase troop levels on its western border even after suspending participation in a key arms treaty.

Among the issues that have most undermined Russian-U.S. relations in recent years is a U.S. plan to put elements of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic — former Warsaw Pact members that have joined NATO.

Russia has claimed the system will be used to spy on Russian missile and military forces; Washington says it will help defend Europe from a potential missile attack from Iran.

Gen. Baluyevsky said the U.S. missile defense plan would destabilize Europe and he repeated sharp warnings that Russia would respond in some fashion.

“We plan and, depending on the situation, will take appropriate and asymmetric measures aimed at preventing the deterioration of our defense capability,” Gen. Baluyevsky was quoted as saying by Interfax. There was no explanation of what he meant by asymmetric.

Gen. Baluyevsky, the chief of Russia’s general staff, said U.S. Defense Department policies continued to challenge Moscow openly.

“The question of confrontation with Russia, mildly speaking, including direct confrontation, unfortunately has not been struck from the agenda by my colleagues at the Pentagon,” he told reporters. He did not elaborate.

On Wednesday, Moscow formally suspended participation in the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe treaty, which limits the deployment of tanks, aircraft and other heavy weapons across the Continent.

Officials have said the moratorium was not a threat, but rather an effort to persuade NATO nations to ratify a 1999 update of the pact.

Mr. Kislyak repeated that Russia did not intend to increase its force levels on the western border despite the moratorium.

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