Russian threat over US shield

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Russia said yesterday it would use military means if the United States deployed a missile defence shield close to its borders, a threat analysts said was aimed at stoking European opposition to the shield.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said Moscow would be forced to use "military-technical methods" if a American deal on building part of the shield in the Czech Republic was ratified by its parliament. "If the real deployment of an American strategic missile defence shield begins close to our borders, then we will be forced to react not with diplomatic methods, but with military-technical methods," the Foreign Ministry said.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its www.mid.ru website that the missile shield would undermine global security and Moscow's strategic deterrent. It said that Moscow's proposals to Washington on the shield had been ignored.

Pavel Felgenhauer, a military analyst, said that Moscow was using typical Cold War rhetoric to discourage the Czech parliament from ratifying the shield agreement, signed by the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and the Czech Foreign Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg.

"That is why it is very unspecific but sounds threatening," he said. "It is psychological pressure, the same sort that was used in the 1980s by the Soviet Union, when the United States deployed cruise missiles in Europe, in an attempt to boost the anti-missile, anti-US protests."

Russia's United Nations Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said the Foreign Ministry statement did not mean military action but a change of "strategic posture".

"If you are talking about military action, this of course is not the case," Mr Churkin said.

Vladimir Putin, the former president who is now Prime Minister, said in 2007 that Russia could aim missiles at European countries if the missile shield goes ahead. Russian generals have threatened to deploy tactical missiles in neighbouring Belarus in response.

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