- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 24, 2007

NEW DELHI — Russia’s defense minister yesterday harshly criticized U.S. plans to deploy missile-defense sites in Central Europe, saying Moscow doesn’t trust the U.S. explanation that they are intended to counter missile threats posed by Iran and North Korea.

Sergei Ivanov, speaking during a trip to India where he co-chaired a bilateral commission on military ties, said neither Iran nor North Korea has or will have a capability to build missiles that can reach Europe.

“They don’t and won’t have intercontinental ballistic missiles,” Mr. Ivanov told reporters. “And a question comes: whom it’s directed against?”

U.S. authorities said Monday they had told Polish leaders that the United States wants to open formal negotiations on the possibility of locating ground-based interceptor missiles in Poland.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek of the Czech Republic also said Washington had asked to base a radar station in the country that would serve as another part of the system.

Both Poland and the Czech Republic are former Soviet satellite nations that are now NATO members.

Mr. Ivanov said yesterday that the deployment of U.S. missile-defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic was a decided issue despite official claims that talks were still ahead.

“It’s done mostly to assuage domestic public opinion,” he said. “The decision already has been made, and the talks serve simply as a cover. Like other new NATO members, the Czech Republic and Poland want to show their loyalty.”

Russian military officials have said they see the U.S. system as a threat that would upset the security balance and have warned of unspecified measures in response.

Asked about how Russia could respond to the U.S. move, Mr. Ivanov said there was no need for any quick retaliation. “Our strategic nuclear forces ensure national security under any scenario,” he said.

Russia’s criticism of the U.S. move comes just days after the United States and other allies raised concerns over the rising militarization of space after a successful test by China of an anti-satellite weapon.

China confirmed the test on Tuesday but didn’t provide details. Aviation Week, which first reported the test, said the satellite was hit by a “kinetic kill vehicle” launched from a ballistic missile.

Analysts said the test represented an indirect threat to U.S. defense systems by raising the possibility that its spy satellites could be shot down. The threat wouldn’t affect the anti-missile system.

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