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Czechs, Poles get missile warning

Russia says it could strike them if, as is likely, they allow U.S. system on their soil.

February 20, 2007|From Reuters

WARSAW — Poland and the Czech Republic said Monday that they probably would agree to having parts of a U.S. global missile defense system on their soil, and Moscow warned that the decision could make them targets of a Russian missile strike.

Poland would allow a battery of up to 10 ground-based ballistic rockets and the neighboring Czech Republic would be the site for an advanced radar system to track missiles.

Both countries are former members of the Soviet bloc that are now part of NATO.

"We have agreed that our response to the offer will most likely be positive," Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said at a joint news conference with his Polish counterpart, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

The United States' multibillion-dollar defense system is designed to counter missiles that might someday be fired by what Washington calls rogue states -- Iran and North Korea, for instance.

Russia has ridiculed the U.S. military logic and views the plan as a threat to its national security that would distort the post-Cold War balance of power in Europe.

In Moscow, the commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces reminded Poland and the Czech Republic that Russia's military had the capability to target the new U.S. bases in Eastern Europe.

James Appathurai, spokesman for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said in a statement: "The days of talk of targeting NATO territory or vice versa are long past us. This kind of extreme language is out of date and uncalled for."

In the early 1990s, post-Soviet Russia said its missiles were no longer targeted at NATO countries. Analysts said then that the announcement, which could not be independently verified, was a purely symbolic gesture ending the Cold War hostility.

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