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US-Poland Missile Deal Riles Already Belligerent Russia

Moscow continued to bristle over Thursday's deal between the US and Poland over the stationing of parts of the proposed missile defense shield on Russia's borders, going as far as to say it made Poland a military target.

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, right, shakes hands with chief US negotiator John Rood after an initial agreement on conditions for placing a U.S. missile defense base in Poland was signed, in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, Aug.14, 2008.

The deal between Warsaw and Washington could put Poland in Russia's crosshairs

Russian President Dimitry Medvedev described Poland's decision to go ahead with the stationing of parts of a US anti-missile shield on its territory as "sad for Europe," but simultaneously spoke out against "dramatizing" the conflict.

Following discussions on the situation in Georgia with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday Aug. 15, Medvedev said further talks were needed.

The decision taken Thursday by Poland, and earlier by the Czech Republic, to host elements of the US shield, "has the Russian Federation as its target," Medvedev said.

"This is sad for Europe, sad for all in this densely populated continent," he told a joint press conference after the meeting in Sochi on the Black Sea.

Russia would continue discussions on the issue with "all actors," the president said, while warning that the US move did not contribute to calm.

Merkel insisted the shield was not directed at Russia but was rather protection against countries like Iran.

Missile deal makes Poland a target, says military chief

This was not the view from the Kremlin which reiterated its belief that the shield was aimed at Moscow while a Russian military spokesperson went further by saying that Washington's deal with Warsaw made Poland "100 percent" a target for Russia's military.

"The agreement's content and the haste with which the two sides reached it allow the conclusion that the project is actually aimed against Russia," the Interfax news agency quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

Russian Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces

Nogovitsyn warned that targets will be destroyed

Interfax also reported that Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of Russia's general staff, had talked of Poland in terms of a military strike. "By putting up interceptors, Poland is placing itself at risk. In terms of priority, such targets are the first to be destroyed," the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

US and Polish diplomats agreed on stationing 10 interceptors in Poland in return for US military aid for the Poles, including Patriot air defense missiles.

Nogovitsyn also referred to Russia's nuclear arms doctrine in case of war, under which he said any elements of a foreign anti-missile shield are included on Moscow's target list.

Russia fervently opposes the missile shield, despite US assurances that it counters threats from countries like Iran and is too small to undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent, which comprises several thousand warheads atop long-range missiles.

Accord increase risk of severe tensions

The head of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee, Konstantin Kosachev, said the US-Polish deal would not boost security in Europe and could lead to "to a real increase in tension in Russian-American relations," Interfax reported late Thursday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

Will he or won't he? Lavrov mulls over his Poland visit

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cancelled a planned September trip to Poland hours after the deal was struck Thursday, Poland's PAP news agency said.

However, Poland still expects the scheduled visit to take place, the foreign ministry said Friday. Poland's Foreign Ministry has no official word that Lavrov has called off the visit, local media quoted a ministry spokesman as saying.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ryszard Schnepf added that Poland expects him and has many things to discuss with the Moscow diplomat.

"I can only say that Russia hasn't called off the visit and we still count that it will come to pass," Schnepf told TVP Info. "Lavrov will surely be eagerly greeted here and there are many subjects which we can and even should talk about with the Russian Federation," he said.

Offer to inspect site still stands, says Poland

Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski repeated on Friday an offer to let Russian inspectors inspect the planned US base that will form part of Washington's anti-missile system.

"Our offer still stands," he told Polish state television station TVP3. "We want Russia to be able to have the possibility, if it so desires, to inspect the future base" in Poland.

The Czech government welcomed the deal to base US missile interceptors in Poland.

Czech Republic's Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Czech PM Topolanek and Condi Rice made progress in July

"We are glad that Poland and the US made this agreement, which is also good for the Czech Republic and NATO," deputy foreign minister Tomas Pojar told the DPA news agency.

He questioned the comments from Moscow which suggested the agreement was reached hastily in response to Russia's military assault on pro-Western Georgia.

"It would have happened even without the events in Georgia," Pojar said, adding he wasn't surprised that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had reportedly cancelled his planned trip to Poland. "Something like this was to be expected," he said.

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