When a journalist from Trybuna, a Polish daily, suggested that Poles might need to think about buying warm clothes to prepare for being sent to Siberia in the case of a Russian retaliation to the missile shield project, Army General Yury Baluyevsky, Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, said it wasn't warm clothes they would need, but protective equipment.
"The decision to place [the shield] on Polish soil was taken by the Polish government. It seems to fully realize what kind of retaliation this may lead to... What they really should be concerned about is what will happen in the event that the shield works at all," Baluyevsky said.
"Intercepted missiles will disperse over your territory, and you will need to think not about warm clothes, but about acquiring gas masks and other protective equipment," he said.
The chief of staff dismissed the Pentagon's justification for the shield plans.
"As for the arguments [in favor of the shield], they can be described very simply - non-existent," he said in the interview, which was re-published on the Russian Defense Ministry's website.
He said that even the architects of a Europe-based U.S. anti-missile solution had already dropped their assertion that North Korea ever posed a missile threat to U.S. or Europe, and that "talk of a hypothetical Iranian threat takes a leaf from the same book," adding that this claim was also likely to be dropped soon.
When asked why Russia, with its powerful nuclear arsenal, is afraid of a handful of U.S. missiles in Poland, he said Russia was worried about the "third site" as an element of a much broader agenda.
"Of course a dozen such missiles as the Americans are planning to deploy in Poland - unproven and untested as they are - are not seen as a direct threat to Russia's deterrent capability," he said. "However, the U.S. doctrine treats missile defense as part of a broader 'strategic triad,' which also includes offensive strategic weapons."
"We are sure that U.S. missile defense capability, including a proposed European site, would develop, and its anti-Russian capability would grow in the future," Baluyevsky said. "In such an environment, we would be forced to take appropriate countermeasures."
He said Washington's decision to deploy a missile shield in Europe was "logical, but only under a logic that belongs to a past era."
"You have Russia and the United States, and both have to reduce their nuclear capabilities. What you want is to be able to deliver a first strike while minimizing your potential enemy's ability to do so. To achieve that, you need to encircle the enemy's territory with offensive and missile-defense bases. . . This is normal military logic. The only problem is that this is the logic of a past era - the Cold War, and standoffs between blocs in Europe."
"During that era, there were ideological grounds. . . Today, there is no such confrontation, but the ideas of that era seem to be alive and well. This is where the logic breaks," Baluyevsky said.
During the interview, Baluyevsky took a global map of U.S. anti-missile sites and said that "all these sites are close to Russian borders, all are looking toward Russia. This is the reason why we have said our country is being militarily encircled."
When asked about Europe's apparent indecision over the shield, Baluyevsky praised the EU for its readiness to discuss all difficult issues.
"The issue affects all Europeans and must therefore be discussed on a multilateral basis," he said.
"It is dangerous to make decisions of such seriousness without even talking to your neighbors," he added.
Baluyevsky denied that Russia's recent reaction to missile plans was "knee-jerk," and said that historically, cooperation between Russia and the West was always more effective than fighting. He declined to give his personal assessment of Poland's policies concerning the shield and other issues.
"Assessments of the actions of a foreign government is not my territory. The Poles have elected this government and only they are in a position to decide whether its course is satisfactory and whether the alliances this government makes are good. What makes me sad is the current relationship that we have with Poland - on the state as well as military level," he said.
"I think what is happening now in Russian-Polish relations will also become history, albeit one with an unpleasant aftertaste. I am optimistic; I believe that good sense will prevail eventually," Russia's top general said.