MOSCOW – Russia on Feb. 9 blasted U.S. security moves in Europe, saying even toned-down missile defense plans were intended to weaken Russia and that the U.S.-led NATO alliance remained a “serious” threat.

“The development and deployment of missile defenses is aimed against the Russia Federation,” Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, was quoted as saying by domestic news agencies.

Makarov, Russia’s top military officer who is regarded as a reformer and known for straight talking, derided as disingenuous claims by Washington and its allies that plans to site missile defense elements in Europe were unrelated to Russia.

“This is not the case,” he said.

Separately, Nikolai Patrushev, the influential chief of Russia’s national security council and former director of the FSB intelligence service, said NATO remains the top foreign military threat for Russia.

“We deeply doubt that we will be safer as a result of NATO enlargement,” Patrushev was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying. “For us, the alliance represents a threat and a fairly serious one.”

The sudden burst of vitriol from Moscow came as Russia and the United States pursue efforts to thrash out a new nuclear disarmament treaty to replace the landmark 1991 START accord that expired in December.

Moscow has reportedly insisted that any new pact regulates both strategic offensive missiles and the anti-missile systems designed to thwart them, a linkage that the United States has not favored.

Makarav said the START talks, which have dragged long past deadlines, were stuck on that issue.

In September, President Obama shelved plans – fiercely opposed by Moscow – to site elements of a high-tech missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, a plan pursued vigorously by his predecessor, George W Bush.

Moscow initially welcomed that decision amid talk of a wide-ranging reset in strained U.S.-Russian relations but reserved judgment on Obama’s simultaneous announcement of plans to pursue a more modest missile defense scheme.

Romanian President Traian Basescu said Feb. 4 that his country – like Poland and the Czech Republic, a former east bloc satellite of Moscow – had agreed to host ballistic missile interceptors as part of a new U.S. shield.

Basescu said the shield was not aimed at Russia, prompting Russia’s foreign ministry to denounce what it called “a serious matter which we will be analyzing with care”.

The U.S. State Department also attempted to dampen Moscow’s concerns on Feb. 9, insisting that Russia is not the target of the new scheme.

“The emerging missile defense architecture in Europe is not aimed at Russia, but rather the emerging threat from Iran,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.

Russia has also long voiced worry over NATO’s plan to take in eastern bloc countries that were until a generation ago part of the Warsaw Pact led by Moscow.

President Bush pushed strongly for NATO to extend membership to Ukraine and Georgia, both once part of the Soviet Union, but NATO has put those ideas on ice.

Relations between NATO and Russia were frozen over the August 2008 war in Georgia war and have only just begun to thaw, amid efforts to focus on common concerns like the conflict in Afghanistan and the fight against terrorism.

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NATO Remains ‘Serious’ Threat to Russia: Official

MOSCOW – Russia on Feb. 9 blasted U.S. security moves in Europe, saying even toned-down missile defense plans were intended to weaken Russia and that the U.S.-led NATO alliance remained a “serious” threat.

“The development and deployment of missile defenses is aimed against the Russia Federation,” Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, was quoted as saying by domestic news agencies.

Makarov, Russia’s top military officer who is regarded as a reformer and known for straight talking, derided as disingenuous claims by Washington and its allies that plans to site missile defense elements in Europe were unrelated to Russia.

“This is not the case,” he said.

Separately, Nikolai Patrushev, the influential chief of Russia’s national security council and former director of the FSB intelligence service, said NATO remains the top foreign military threat for Russia.

“We deeply doubt that we will be safer as a result of NATO enlargement,” Patrushev was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying. “For us, the alliance represents a threat and a fairly serious one.”

The sudden burst of vitriol from Moscow came as Russia and the United States pursue efforts to thrash out a new nuclear disarmament treaty to replace the landmark 1991 START accord that expired in December.

Moscow has reportedly insisted that any new pact regulates both strategic offensive missiles and the anti-missile systems designed to thwart them, a linkage that the United States has not favored.

Makarav said the START talks, which have dragged long past deadlines, were stuck on that issue.

In September, President Obama shelved plans – fiercely opposed by Moscow – to site elements of a high-tech missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, a plan pursued vigorously by his predecessor, George W Bush.

Moscow initially welcomed that decision amid talk of a wide-ranging reset in strained U.S.-Russian relations but reserved judgment on Obama’s simultaneous announcement of plans to pursue a more modest missile defense scheme.

Romanian President Traian Basescu said Feb. 4 that his country – like Poland and the Czech Republic, a former east bloc satellite of Moscow – had agreed to host ballistic missile interceptors as part of a new U.S. shield.

Basescu said the shield was not aimed at Russia, prompting Russia’s foreign ministry to denounce what it called “a serious matter which we will be analyzing with care”.

The U.S. State Department also attempted to dampen Moscow’s concerns on Feb. 9, insisting that Russia is not the target of the new scheme.

“The emerging missile defense architecture in Europe is not aimed at Russia, but rather the emerging threat from Iran,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.

Russia has also long voiced worry over NATO’s plan to take in eastern bloc countries that were until a generation ago part of the Warsaw Pact led by Moscow.

President Bush pushed strongly for NATO to extend membership to Ukraine and Georgia, both once part of the Soviet Union, but NATO has put those ideas on ice.

Relations between NATO and Russia were frozen over the August 2008 war in Georgia war and have only just begun to thaw, amid efforts to focus on common concerns like the conflict in Afghanistan and the fight against terrorism.

Read the article on Defense News

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