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Moscow baffled by U.S. ABM plans for Europe

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Viktor Litovkin) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has expressed surprise at Moscow's sharp criticism of American plans to deploy anti-ballistic-missile (ABM) interceptors in Poland and early-warning radars in the Czech Republic.

"The idea that we somehow surprised them [Russians] about missile defense and then to go and say these things about Poland and the Czech Republic, independent countries, NATO members, was, I think, unnecessary and unwarranted," Rice said in a February 25 interview on Fox News. "When it comes to missile defense, no one would suggest - anyone who knows anything about this would [not] suggest - that somehow 10 interceptors deployed in Poland are going to threaten the thousands of warheads in the Russian deterrent. ...What we'd like to do is to pursue with the Russians the missile defense cooperation that we once talked about."

The "iron lady" of the State Department was speaking to an audience that knows very little, if anything, about the issue.

Rice most likely knows that Kremlin officials have told their Washington counterparts more than once that the deployment of elements of a U.S. ABM system in Eastern Europe is unjustified.

The only credible argument in this case is that there is a desire on the part of the Pentagon generals and their White House bosses to inflict maximum damage on the Russian-American partnership, pit Russia against its Western neighbors, and spur on the arms race.

This is exactly what Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov referred to when he said Moscow was baffled by Washington's plans to deploy ABM elements in Poland and the Czech Republic.

There are people in Moscow who know almost everything about the ABM dispute. One of them is Colonel General Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of the Strategic Missile Forces.

Solovtsov has said: "If Poland and the Czech Republic make the decision [to accept a U.S. proposal to base 10 interceptor missiles and a radar in their countries], Russia's Strategic Missile Forces will aim its missiles at them."

General of the Army Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of the Russian General Staff, supported that statement. He had earlier said that such a move by the United States would complicate bilateral relations, and that the Poles should think about "what may fall on their heads [in the event of a conflict]."

He has expressed disappointment with the U.S. plans in a recent interview with the state-owned newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

"We are worried over the consequences of ballistic-missile intercepts close to the Russian border, or even over Russian territory," the general said. "That is quite probable, as it is nearly impossible to completely destroy a ballistic missile armed with weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear weapons, without [negative] consequences for the atmosphere and land surface."

He added: "The Czech Republic and Poland probably want to protect their distant ally so much that they are prepared to tolerate a shower of dangerous debris. However, Russians have the right to ask why they should be made a hostage to that situation. Why should those who are not guilty of anything be forced to clean up the consequences?"

"We cannot regard the deployment of an ABM facility close to the Russian border as a friendly move by the United States and its eastern European NATO allies," Baluyevsky said. "In my view, the buildup of military capability close to the Russian border cannot strengthen European security."

Russian-U.S. missile defense cooperation is being hindered by the Bush administration. It does not want to give Russia technical information on certain structural elements of the ABM system, which makes cooperation impossible.

American officials have hurried to comment on the concern expressed by Russian generals over the unfriendly moves of the United States. By turning the generals' words inside out, they have concluded that after the threat made by the commander of the Strategic Missile Forces and the chief of the General Staff - although it was not a threat but a warning - Warsaw and Prague simply must agree to accept the U.S. ABM system.

One cannot stop wondering at politicians' talent for juggling words and notions, applying double standards, and even deceiving the public, as in the case of "Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," used as a pretext for invading that country.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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