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Caucasus States Warned Not to Host U.S. Missile Shield

Russia on Friday warned former Soviet republics in the Caucasus against hosting any parts of a controversial U.S. anti-missile shield.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement on the Foreign Ministry's web site that relations with Russia would be damaged if any country considered deploying the U.S. shield.

"Basing of parts of a U.S. anti-missile shield in the Caucasus, without doubt, would not become a positive factor in the development of friendly relations," Kamynin said.

The statement comes at the same time that Russia is voicing considerable consternation over U.S. plans to base elements of the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

One Russian general recently said Moscow had the military muscle to destroy the Eastern European installations if need be.

Russia and the United States are competing for allies in the Caucasus and Central Asia, which the Kremlin sees as its diplomatic backyard. Unlike Poland and the Czech Republic, no countries in the Caucasus belong to NATO.

Washington says it wants the system, consisting of radar stations and batteries of interceptor missiles, to shoot down hostile rockets launched by terrorists or "rogue states."

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency said this month that Washington could be interested in locating a radar system in an unspecified Caucasus state as part of the Missile Defense System it plans to deploy in Europe.

U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Henry Obering said that having a radar in the Caucasus region would be "useful, but not essential."

Obering did not specify which country, if any, Pentagon officials have in mind for the anti-missile facility.

Moscow believes the shield threatens its national security and has promised to counter it with existing and future weapons.

President Vladimir Putin, who has been highly critical of U.S. foreign policy as of late, and other senior Russian officials have pledged a significant military buildup in the coming years.

(The Moscow Times 12.iii.07)

 
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