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Russia hails nuclear pact, but warns on US missile defence
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) March 26, 2010

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov - AFP file image.

No limits on missile defense in new treaty: Gates
Washington (AFP) March 26, 2010 - The new nuclear treaty between the United States and Russia does not set constraints on US plans to develop and improve missile defense systems, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Friday. Gates said the pact would not prevent US efforts in "improving and deploying" missile defense systems in Europe and elsewhere, which Washington says are focused on protecting itself and allies from a threat from Iran.

NATO chief wants Russia to engage with missile defence
Brussels (AFP) March 26, 2010 - NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in remarks to be delivered Saturday that a "security roof" stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok sought by Russia be built on missile defence cooperation between NATO and Moscow. "I am suggesting nothing less than a radical change in the way we think about European security, about missile defence, and about Russia," Rasmussen said in a speech to be given in Brussels on Saturday, but released to media on Friday. "And it would allow Europe to play an active role in a process which, until now, is conducted largely over their heads, by the US and Russia."

Over and above the terror attacks of the last decade, Rasmussen said the "proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery" is "real and growing," citing Iran as having "gone far beyond what is necessary for a purely civilian" nuclear programme. He also pointed to more than "30 countries" that have or are developing missile capabilities, "with greater and greater ranges." As a result, "we need a missile defence system that includes not just all countries of NATO, but Russia too," the Dane said. A NATO summit in November represents a deadline for allies to settle plans, the NATO chief said, stressing that "we also need a decision from Russia -- a decision to view missile defence as an opportunity, rather than a threat."

"Having been relieved of the internal struggles" of the past and recent, bloody Balkan history, "Europe should now take on more responsibility for external challenges," he underlined. Anti-missile defence systems already in place within the NATO alliance fall under a US shield that has missile interceptors in the United States, Greenland and Britain. Plans for it to be extended into eastern Europe have raised serious concern in Russia. Rasmussen said earlier this month that "Russia sent a wrong kind of signal by conducting military exercises that rehearse the invasion of a smaller NATO member," referring to Russian and Belarus war games in September on Poland's border. In February, the Kremlin published a strategy paper listing first among "chief outside military threats" the fact that NATO is attempting to "globalise its functions in contravention of international law."

Russia on Friday hailed a new nuclear arms treaty with the United States, but warned that US missile defence plans could still derail the key objective of reducing nuclear weapons.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made it clear that Moscow could back out if the United States went too far with its plans to counter missile attacks by setting up defences in eastern Europe.

"The presidents agreed that the new treaty marks the transfer of Russian-US cooperation to a higher level in the development of new strategic ties," the Kremlin said in a statement after the agreement was announced.

It also said the new treaty establishes a linkage between strategic weapons cuts and missile defence systems -- an apparent reference to US missile shield plans that have angered Moscow.

"The mutual linkage between strategic offensive and strategic defensive weapons will be fixed in a legally-binding manner" in the new treaty, the Kremlin statement said.

Lavrov told reporters, "The agreement was reached in conditions where both sides have corresponding levels of strategic offensive and defensive systems.

"Any change to these levels gives each country the right to decide the question of whether it will continue to take part in the process of further reductions of strategic arms."

Asked whether the new treaty imposed restrictions on US missile defence, Lavrov said it "does not ban anyone from making unilateral decisions."

He also said the Russian parliament would proceed with ratification of the treaty only in coordination with the US Senate, where opposition from conservative Republicans could kill the treaty.

"We no doubt proceed from the fact that the ratification process will be synchronised," Lavrov told reporters, in an indication that Russian lawmakers would not ratify the pact unless it cleared the US Senate too.

The new treaty is to be signed April 8 in Prague by US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev.

It replaces the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), a cornerstone of Cold War-era arms control which expired in December.

Obama had made the effort to replace START a central element of his push to "reset" badly strained relations with Russia.

In a telephone call on Friday where the two presidents clinched the deal, Medvedev told Obama the two sides had achieved a "balance of interests" in the treaty after months of talks, Medvedev's spokeswoman said.

"The presidents thanked each other for cooperation," Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova told Russian news agencies, descibing the phone call.

"Medvedev noted that this treaty reflects the balance of interests of both countries," Timakova added.

The Kremlin confirmed a White House announcement that the signing of the treaty would take place in Prague, the city where Obama made his pledge last year to seek a world free of nuclear weapons.

Signed in 1991, START led to steep reductions in the US and Russian nuclear arsenals and imposed a series of verification measures to build trust between the two former Cold War foes.


Related Links
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Iran anti-missile launch succeeds
Tehran (UPI) Mar 24, 2009
Iran has successfully launched a new anti-ship from its first homemade destroyer, Iranian media report. The state news agency IRNA said the surface-to-surface missile, dubbed Noor, destroyed its target at a distance of about 60 miles. It was fired from the Jamaran the first indigenously designed and developed guided missile destroyer in the Persian Gulf. The Mowdge-class v ... read more

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