Moscow: Russia's nuclear weapons chief threatened Monday to target a planned US missile defence shield in central Europe if Washington fails to take into account Moscow's worries, the Interfax news agency reported.
General Nikolai Solovtsov, head of strategic missile forces, said that such a decision could be taken if the US shield is seen to “undermine the Russian nuclear deterrent capability.”
In that case, “I do not exclude… the missile defence shield sites in Poland and the Czech Republic being chosen as targets for some of our intercontinental ballistic missiles,” Solovtsov said, according to Interfax.
Washington says the plans to install radar in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor rockets in Poland would guard against theoretical missile strikes from “rogue” nations such as Iran, without denting Russia's massive nuclear offensive arsenal.
But Moscow claims the United States is exaggerating the threat from Iran and describes the shield as the thin end of a wedge aimed at changing the current balance of military power.
On Saturday, the Russian chief of staff, General Yury Baluyevsky, warned that the launch of US interceptor missiles could accidentally trigger a Russian retaliatory strike.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk denounced the comments as “unacceptable” and said that “no declaration of this kind will influence Polish-American negotiations.”
Solovtsov, speaking hours after state television showed images of a ballistic missile being test fired from a submerged submarine at a target on the other side of Russia, said the United States was untrustworthy.
“If the Americans signed a treaty with us that they would only deploy 10 anti-missile rockets in Poland and one radar in the Czech Republic and will never put anything else there, then we could deal with this,” he said.
“However they won't sign, they just tell us verbally, 'We won't threaten you'.”
“They already cheated Russia once,” he said, referring to NATO expansion into former Soviet-dominated territory after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. “Verbally they already told us that when we re-unite Germany there won't be one NATO soldier there. Now where are they?”
East-West relations are increasingly strained as Russia and NATO countries argue over how to ensure security in the post-Cold War landscape.
Russia froze compliance last week with the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which imposes strict limits on deployment of troops around the country.
The Foreign Ministry offered reassurance that Russia had “no current plans to accumulate massive armaments on our neighbours' borders.”
However the decision was criticised by NATO, the United States and other Western powers.