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U.S. antimissile launch may provoke counterattack - army chief-2

A possible U.S. launch of an interceptor missile from Central Europe may provoke a counterattack by intercontinental ballistic missiles, Russia's top military commander said.
(Adds details, quotes, background after para. 6)

MOSCOW, December 15 (RIA Novosti) - A possible U.S. launch of an interceptor missile from Central Europe may provoke a counterattack by intercontinental ballistic missiles, Russia's top military commander said.

"If we suppose that Iran wants to strike the United States, then interceptor missiles, which would be launched from Poland, will fly towards Russia," the Chief of the Russian General Staff, Gen. Yury Baluyevsky said, adding that the shape of interceptor missiles and their flight trajectory are very similar to ICBMs.

Washington wants to place a radar in the Czech Republic and 10 missile interceptors in Poland, purportedly to counter a missile threat from Iran and other "rogue" states. Moscow has responded angrily to the plans, saying the European shield would destroy the strategic balance of forces and threaten Russia's national interests.

The top Russian military official said Russia operates automated missile warning systems, which could respond automatically in case the U.S. fires an antimissile across Russia against a possible ballistic missile form Iran.

He added that the U.S. also still keeps high on the agenda an issue of a possible global confrontation with Russia.

"The issue of, to put it mildly, a confrontation with Russia, including a direct confrontation, is unfortunately still regarded by my counterparts from the Pentagon as relevant," he said adding that the U.S. missile shield plans in Central Europe are aimed to change the current security system in Europe and not against possible strikes from "rogue states."

He said the formation of the Third Site in Poland and the Czech Republic is a destabilizing factor in Europe and Russia will do everything possible to prevent a decrease in its national defense capability.

"Depending on the situation we [Russia] plan to take adequate and asymmetrical measures aimed to prevent a drop in national defense capabilities," Baluyevsky said adding that the U.S. proposals on the missile shield are unacceptable for Russia.

"We believe that Russia's opinion should be heard and taken into account concerning such important issue as the missile shield in Europe," he said. "We speak for the dialogue, but under the condition that the problem will not be complicated by unilateral steps in this sphere."

Russia has offered the U.S. use of radar stations at Gabala in Azerbaijan, and Armavir in south Russia, as alternatives to missile shield deployment in Central Europe. Washington said, though, it could use these radars only as additional components of the European shield.

Speaking about the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, Baluyevsky said that European states have turned the treaty into a tool of political pressure.

"Western countries have deliberately turned a regime of arms control into a tool for achieving political aims," he said.

The law to freeze Russia's participation in the CFE treaty was unanimously approved by parliament and signed on November 30 by President Vladimir Putin. Russia's unilateral moratorium came into force immediately after midnight on Wednesday.

Moscow considers the original CFE treaty, signed in December 1990 by 16 NATO countries and six Warsaw Pact members, to be discriminatory and outdated since it does not reflect the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the breakup of the Soviet Union, or recent NATO expansion.

Baluyevsky said that after the moratorium came into force Russia has the full right to move its military units across the country the way it prefers, but the country does not plan to increase weapons stock.

NATO said in a statement Wednesday that it regretted Russia's decision to impose a moratorium on the arms reductions treaty, which the West regards as a cornerstone of Euro-Atlantic security, and urged Moscow to reverse its decision.

Russia has urged NATO countries to ratify the adapted version of the treaty, signed on November 19, 1999 and so far ratified only by Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

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