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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov Says U.S. Wants to Snoop

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has suggested that the true reason the United States wants an anti-missile system in Eastern Europe is not to defend Europe from Iranian missiles but to spy on Russia.

Lavrov made the comments in an interview broadcast Friday on state-run television, just days after U.S. technical experts visited the Russian-leased Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan, which borders Iran to the north.

Russia has responded angrily to U.S. proposals to base elements of a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland. Moscow's counterproposal is for Russia and the United States to use Gabala. U.S. officials have said the site's technology is outdated and emphasized that even if they were to use the Russian radar, it would not replace the U.S. elements.

"When our American partners say that Gabala cannot be an alternative to radar in the Czech Republic, I understand them, because the Gabala radar cannot see Russian territory from its western borders to the Urals ... radar in the Czech Republic can," Lavrov said.

"Any action calls for a counteraction. This doesn't even have any sort of ill thought; this is the law of the genre. This is the obligation of militaries, the obligation for the commander in chief to guarantee the maximally effective answer to any threat," he said.

Lavrov repeated Russian arguments that building the missile defense system will likely spark a new arms race.

The issue has grown into one of the most serious disputes ruffling ties between Moscow and Washington.

Brigadier General Patrick O'Reilly, deputy director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, said earlier in the week after visiting the Gabala station that it was too old for the purpose of defending against a potential threat from Iran -- Washington's main argument for building the European system.

Security analyst Pavel Podvig said Gabala had poor resolution data and would be near the end of its useful life within the next four years. It also reportedly is unable to process tracking data independently and must transmit them to facilities outside of Moscow.