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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Russia to develop new air defence system

MOSCOW – Russia's air force chief said on Tuesday Moscow was working on a new generation air defence system after the United States announced plans to deploy a missile shield in Eastern Europe.

Gen. Vladimir Mikhailov said the new technology would go further than the existing S-400 (Triumph) anti-aircraft missile system, which has a range of 400 km (250 miles).

'We are moving to the creation of a new system of anti-aircraft defence which will significantly surpass the capabilities of the S-400,' Mikhailov told a meeting of foreign military attaches in Moscow.
'This is not an offensive but rather a defensive weapon,' he said.

Mikhailov also returned to the attack on the U.S. missile defence plan, already sharply criticised in Moscow. 'I think everyone will understand that this should not be done,' he said in remarks seen as aimed at Poland and the Czech Republic.

Those two countries, one-time Soviet allies that now belong to NATO, are being invited to host elements of the missile shield on their territory. Russia says Washington did not consult it properly on the issue.

Washington says the shield would protect U.S. allies against an attack from 'rogue states' such as Iran and North Korea and does not threaten Russia.

But Moscow regards the system, reminiscent of President Ronald Reagan's 'Star Wars' project in the 1980s, as an encroachment on its former sphere of influence and an attempt by Washington to change the post-Cold War balance of power.

One Russian general said recently Moscow's missile forces could target the installations should they be deployed. Under the U.S. plan, Poland would host a missile battery while a radar system would be sited in the Czech Republic.

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