- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 9, 2007

HEILIGENDAMM, Germany — The high-stakes game of one-upmanship over a planned U.S. missile-defense shield in Eastern Europe continued yesterday, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying missiles could be located in Turkey, or even Iraq or on sea platforms.

A day after Mr. Putin offered a Russian-controlled base in Azerbaijan as an alternative to the U.S. plan, he offered more options for the placement of missiles.

“They could be placed in the south, in U.S. NATO allies such as Turkey, or even Iraq,” Mr. Putin said at a press conference after the close of the Group of Eight summit. “They could also be placed on sea platforms.”

While President Bush, who met with the Russian leader Thursday on the sidelines of the G-8 summit here, said only that the ideas were “interesting,” his secretary of state yesterday all but shot down the proposal.

Condoleezza Rice told the Associated Press yesterday that the United States will pursue its own plans to put the missile defense in Eastern Europe .

“One does not choose sites for missile defense out of the blue,” she said in an interview. “It’s geometry and geography as to how you intercept a missile.”

Still, she said the United States would consider the offer. “This is an idea that has not yet been vetted,” she said of Mr. Putin’s proposal. “We have to see whether Azerbaijan makes any sense in the context of missile defense.”

Mr. Bush has won agreement from the Czech Republic and Poland to install advanced radar equipment and 10 missiles, to be deployed if a rogue nation such as Iran attacks U.S. allies. The Kremlin leader accused Mr. Bush of seeking to restart the Cold War and threatened to target European sites if the system is installed.

Mr. Bush, who missed some morning meetings because of an upset stomach, traveled later yesterday to Poland, where he won strong support from the Polish president for the installation of missiles in his country.

“This is the plan which is to reinforce the protection of Europe against the dangers which result from the fact that not all the countries of the contemporary world are responsible — we do not mean Russia here,” said President Lech Kaczynski.

“The Russian federation can feel totally safe,” he said.

Mr. Bush echoed the statement, saying: “The system we have proposed is not directed at Russia. We would welcome Russian cooperation in missile defense.”

He said that a working group including the United States and Russia would “discuss different opportunities and different options, all aimed at providing protection for people from rogue regimes who might be in a position to either blackmail and or attack those of us who live in free societies.”

Miss Rice was less diplomatic — and less equivocal — saying Washington would do what it saw fit to deal with the “real security problem” posed by rogue states like Iran and North Korea.

“If [the Russian proposal] is a way to begin more serious discussions about what we believe is a common threat — which is the threat of the Irans and North Koreas of the world launching missiles — that’s a very positive development,” she said.

Mr. Putin offered the use of the Soviet-era radar at Gabala in northeast Azerbaijan, now leased by Russia and run by the Russian military. The Russian leader has said that the U.S. installation of a high-tech radar system — which he fears would be used to eavesdrop on Moscow — and missiles would alter the balance of power in Europe.

“Gabala completely covers the whole region that worries the Americans,” Mr. Putin said of the radar station. “We are ready online and in real-time to hand over all information.”

While the Muslim-majority Azerbaijan is concerned that Iran’s Shi’ite theocracy could threaten the nation, NATO’s top diplomat, Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said he thought the country to be “a bit close to the rogue states we are discussing.”

c This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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