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#17 - JRL 7011
Russia Proposes Plan on Missile Defense
January 9, 2003

MOSCOW (AP) - The Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Moscow has proposed a plan to work with United States on missile defenses, but a top Russian general warned that U.S. plans to build a missile shield were a threat to Russia.

The United States has said the two nations could cooperate in developing defenses against ballistic missiles, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko expressed hope Washington would agree to a draft ``political agreement'' on missile defense submitted by Russia.

Yakovenko's brief statement gave no details and said only that the Russian proposal would ``strengthen, not weaken the strategic stability.'' U.S. Embassy officials had no immediate comment.

Russia opposed the Washington's withdrawal last year from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to deploy a national missile defense shield, saying the 30-year-old U.S.-Soviet pact was a key element of international security.

However, Russian officials subsequently tempered their criticism. President Vladimir Putin said it was a ``mistake'' that would hurt global security but not threaten Russia.

The ABM treaty banned missile defense systems on the assumption that the fear of retaliation would prevent each nation from launching a first strike - a strategy known as mutually assured destruction.

The Bush administration has said that its prospective missile defense system would be aimed against potential missile threats from nations such as Iraq or North Korea, and would be unable to fend off a massive nuclear strike Russia is capable of launching - a claim that has failed to allay the Russian military's suspicions.

In an interview published Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said the two countries have good prospects for cooperating on development of such systems and are trying to define areas of possible joint work.

But Vershbow said Thursday in Washington that the Russian military was resisting U.S.-Russian cooperation. Vershbow said he ``regretted hearing echoes of the past from the Russian military.''

Yakovenko, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Russia had watched U.S. statements ``with interest'' and has made ``specific proposals'' for such cooperation.

He did not explain the proposals, and a top Russian general said in an interview published Thursday that Moscow and Washington had so far disagreed in their approach to possible joint work on missile defense.

Col.-Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, the first deputy chief of the General Staff, told the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets that the United States wants to obtain some Russian military technologies but remains reluctant to accept Russian proposals of joint research.

``We believe that we should work together to develop a joint product,'' Baluyevsky said. ``But the Americans would like to establish direct contacts with our industries to get a 'product' they need and forget about them.''

In a statement that contrasted with the Kremlin's calm attitude to the U.S. missile defense plans, Baluyevsky said that they are a potential threat to Russia's security.

``I absolutely disagree with the claim that the (U.S.) missile defense is not a threat to Russia,'' Baluyevsky said. ``A missile defense is intended to engage any missiles or warheads that would fly toward a target or the country it protects,'' Baluyevsky said. ``Therefore, it's illogical to say that a missile defense isn't a threat to one country or another.''

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