MOSCOW, March 18 (RIA Novosti) – Washington’s decision to scrap plans to place missile defense elements in Poland does nothing to address Moscow’s national security concerns and will not affect its stance on the issue, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview published on Monday.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said at a news conference on Friday that plans to place upgraded missile interceptors in Poland are being abandoned and that 14 new interceptors will be placed on the US West Coast instead.
The announcement comes shortly after nuclear-armed North Korea terminated a peace treaty with South Korea, a US ally. Hagel also cited development problems and funding cuts.
Speaking to the Kommersant daily, Ryabkov said there was no connection between Russia’s objections to the deployment of a US missile defense system in Europe and Hagel’s announcement.
“That is not a concession to Russia, nor do we regard it as such,” Ryabkov said.
“All aspects of strategic uncertainty related to the creation of a US and NATO missile defense system remain. Therefore, our objections also remain.”
Even a curtailed European missile defense system poses a threat to Russia’s nuclear capability, he said, adding that the Foreign Ministry sees no grounds for reviewing its official position.
Moscow will continue to press for the signing of “legally binding agreements guaranteeing that US missile defense elements are not aimed against Russia’s strategic nuclear forces,” he said.
On Monday, chair of the Duma Committee on International Relations Alexei Pushkov echoed these views and went further, saying “ten years ago they ardently tried to convince us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and used this to justify war against the country. But Iraq turned out not to have these weapons. And now the whole world finds these arguments laughable.”
“They told us that these missile interceptors were needed in Europe as a defense against North Korea. Now it turns out that they are not needed in Europe, but in Alaska. How, after this, can one believe the American explanations?” Pushkov asked.
Commenting on Hagel’s announcement, James Miller, principal deputy undersecretary for policy at the US Department of Defense said: "In the fourth phase, in the previous plan, we would have added some additional type of interceptors - the so-called SM-3 IIB…to the mix in Poland. We no longer intend to add them to the mix, but we'll continue to have the same number of deployed interceptors in Poland that will provide coverage for all of NATO in Europe."
Hagel also said the US is planning to deploy an additional radar in Japan to provide early warning and tracking of any missile launched from North Korea at the United States or Japan.
Two weeks ago, North Korea threatened to launch a preemptive nuclear attack against Washington when the United Nations voted for new sanctions against North Korea in response to February’s nuclear test.
Russia and NATO initially agreed to cooperate on the so-called European missile defense system at the Lisbon summit in November 2010. However, further talks between Russia and the alliance have floundered over NATO’s refusal to grant Russia legal guarantees that the system would not be aimed against Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent.
NATO and the United States insist the shield is designed to defend NATO members against missiles from emerging threat nations like North Korea and Iran, and would not be directed at Russia. The alliance has vowed to continue developing and deploying its missile defenses, regardless of the status of missile defense cooperation with Russia.
Russia has threatened a range of countermeasures against NATO's missile defenses, including tactical nuclear missile deployment in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad and improvements to its strategic nuclear missile arsenal.
Updated to include Pushkov's comments