Russia has turned up the heat on the United States, threatening a military response to President Bush’s planned anti-missile shield in eastern Europe. Moscow’s UN ambassador said it was merely a change of strategy, but left the West in no doubt the Kremlin is fiercely opposed to the plan.
The shield’s first concrete steps came as Washington and Prague signed the deal to build the project’s radar station in the Czech Republic. Moscow has already threatened to re-aim its own missiles at the bases there and in Poland. Washington wants to site the missiles themselves in northern Poland, near the Baltic coast. They would be controlled in flight by the Czech radar station.
Washington insists Moscow has nothing to fear, saying the shield is to protect the US from any rogue Middle Eastern state which may acquire nuclear missiles. That is seen as code for Iran.
The argument doesn’t convince everyone. Notwithstanding Moscow’s objections, surveys in the Czech Republic suggest at least seven out of ten people don’t want their country to have anything to do with the project.
Moscow’s reaction is a throwback to its campaign against American cruise missiles in the 1980s, and has prompted Poland to demand more money to build up its own defences.