Hot Russian Rhetoric Over US Missiles Precedes Poland Visit | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 10.09.2008
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Hot Russian Rhetoric Over US Missiles Precedes Poland Visit

The rhetoric grew hot ahead of a top Russian official's first visit to Warsaw since the outbreak of the war in Georgia in August. Sergei Lavrov warned Poland it was making a mistake by hosting a US missile shield.


The United States' decision to station missiles in Poland has greatly angered Russia

The Polish decision to allow the US to install a missile shield on its territory is a "very dangerous game," which had upset the military balance between Washington and Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a Polish newspaper on Wednesday, Sept. 10.

And earlier in the day, a Russian general threatened to target the planned missile shield sites with ICBMs.

Warsaw and Washington signed a preliminary deal on Aug. 14 to base part of a US missile shield in Poland, in the face of Moscow's vehement opposition and amid mounting East-West tensions over Georgia.

"Poland appears not to have understood that it has become a party to a very dangerous game," Lavrov said in an interview to the Polska daily newspaper ahead of his visit to Warsaw on Thursday.

Lavrov: 'Poland took revenge on us'

In Warsaw, Lavrov is expected to meet with Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk. It will be the first visit by a senior Moscow official to an EU member nation since the outbreak of the Georgia crisis on August 8.

"This means Poland took revenge on us for defending the Ossetians. This is rather small-minded behavior as well as a political mistake," Lavrov said.

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, left, and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Poland's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski , right, sign the missile shield deal on Aug. 20, 2008

US, Polish diplomats signed the missile deal in August

Washington plans to base 10 interceptor missiles in Poland plus a radar facility in the neighboring Czech Republic by 2011-2013 to complete a system already in place in the United States, Greenland and Britain.

Also on Wednesday, with the signing of an agreement on US forces, the Czech government got one step closer to putting a missile-shield plan before the Czech parliament.

Threats of ICBM targets

Earlier in the day, Russia threatened to target planned US missile shield sites in Europe.

Russian General Nikolai Solovtsov, head of strategic missile forces, said if the US set up installations in Central Europe, the Kremlin would ensure that Russia's vast nuclear arsenal remained effective.

He criticized a lack of transparency in Washington's plans and warned that its missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic and "other such objects" could become "designated targets" for inter-continental ballistic missiles.

"We should be sure that the current and future strategic missile forces... are guaranteed to fulfil the task of strategic deterrence," he told the AFP news service.

Georgia conflict highlights problems

Washington insists its shield -- endorsed by all 26 NATO member states earlier this year -- is to fend off potential missile attacks by what it calls "rogue states", presumably such as Iran.

Russia has long complained that the system is a security threat designed to undermine its nuclear deterrent. It has threatened retaliation against the Poles and Czechs, warning they could become a target for Russian attack.

Russian tanks in South Ossetia

Russia: EU observers can watch the widrawal, in part

The issue has been brought into sharper focus against the backdrop of events in Georgia, where the US has accused Russia of seeking to redraw the map by brutally violating another country's territorial integrity.

Russia poured tanks and thousands of troops into its southern neighbour last month as it repelled a Georgian attempt to regain control of the breakaway province of South Ossetia from Moscow-backed separatists.

Dispute over role of EU peacekeepers

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev committed on Monday, Sept. 8, to pull all Russian troops back from Georgia -- apart from the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- within a month.

Medvedev also pledged to allow 200 EU observers to join other international staff in monitoring the withdrawal and ensuring the truce.

But Foreign Minister Lavrov on Wednesday ruled out the possibility that EU observers would be allowed into South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

In Brussels, however, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana claimed the observer mission "will be deployed with the spirit that it can deploy everywhere", including the two rebel regions.

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