General Says Russia Won't Build Shield

APYevgeny Buzhinsky speaking to reporters in the Defense Ministry on Tuesday.
A senior general warned on Tuesday that the military would take the necessary countermeasures in response to U.S. missile-defense plans but added that Moscow had no intention of developing a similar missile shield.

Lieutenant General Yevgeny Buzhinsky told reporters that Russia was thinking about "asymmetrical" steps if the United States deploys missile-defense elements in Europe but refused to elaborate what specific measures the military might take.

Buzhinsky said Russia appreciated U.S. proposals, intended to soothe Russian concerns, but said they were not enough to change Moscow's perception that the U.S. system would undermine its security.

Washington has promised to delay activating the planned new sites in Poland and the Czech Republic unless Iran proves itself an imminent threat to Europe. It also offered to let Russian officers monitor the sites to make sure they are not directed against Russia.

"We welcome these proposals as a step in the right direction, the acknowledgment that the Russian concerns are well-grounded," Buzhinsky, who heads the Defense Ministry's international cooperation department, said at a news conference. "But the United States needs to abandon its plans to deploy missile-defense components in Europe if it wants to remove Russia's concerns."

He shrugged off U.S. assurances that a planned radar in the Czech Republic and a battery of 10 missile interceptors in Poland would pose no danger to huge Russian nuclear arsenals, and said the U.S. would be able to expand the system quickly.

"New elements could be added to this small component, and we will have an entire web of anti-missile sites around our borders," Buzhinsky said.

He added that the U.S. trust-building measures lacked specifics and were "formulated in such a way that they could be canceled at any moment."

Buzhinsky said talks on giving Russian officers permanent access to the planned facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic had bogged down in arguments. He dismissed Polish and Czech arguments that they could only let Russian officers in on the basis of reciprocity.

Buzhinsky said a Polish demand to be able to see other military facilities in Russia's westernmost Kaliningrad region was "absurd," urging the United States to persuade its allies to let Russian monitors in.

Russia has cooperated with the EU nations in planning a more limited missile defense that would protect troops on joint peacekeeping missions. Buzhinsky said Russia would end this cooperation if the EU nations join in the U.S. missile-defense shield.

Buzhinsky said that Russia would respond to the U.S. missile-defense plans without plunging into a new arms race.

"We are thinking about asymmetrical measures, we have them," Buzhinsky said, without explaining. "Naturally, we envisage possible retaliatory measures to minimize the risk for our security."

Russian officials have said new Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles will be able to overcome any prospective missile defense. They also boasted about a new, maneuverable nuclear warhead, which may zigzag on its way to target, dodging an enemy's missile shield.

Former President Vladimir Putin warned that Russia may point nuclear missiles at countries that would host U.S. missile-defense components.

Buzhinsky refused on Tuesday to say what specific retaliatory action the military has in mind, but he said Russia does not plan to strengthen the existing missile-defense system protecting Moscow, which was developed in the 1970s.

That system was built in accordance with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which allowed both the United States and the Soviet Union to have one area protected by missile defense. The United States withdrew from the treaty in 2002 in order to deploy a national missile-defense shield, ignoring Moscow's protests.

"We have Moscow missile-defense zone, and I'm unaware of any plans to expand it," Buzhinsky said. "It would be very expensive. We have different priorities in the development and modernization of our military other than creation of these toys."