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Russian missile test new warning over US shield: experts

(AFP) Russia’s ballistic missile test is a new warning to the United States over its defence shield and reflects Moscow’s increasingly aggressive posture on the world stage, experts said Wednesday. 

“It’s Russia’s own multi-headed political and military response” to US plans to extend its anti-missile system in Europe, with war-head interceptors in Poland linked to a radar in the Czech Republic, a NATO diplomat said. 

The physical form of the response was an RS-24: a multi-headed intercontinental missile test fired from the northwest Arkhangelsk region and which hit its target in the Pacific Ocean 6,000 kilometres (3,700 miles) away. 

Hours after it was launched Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin fired his own warning that the US missile shield could “transform Europe into a powder keg”. 

Putin’s barrage is the latest salvo of tough rhetoric that Moscow has aimed at the West over issues ranging from NATO expansion into former Soviet territory to Russia’s threat to veto supervised independence for Kosovo from Serbia. 

“In the generally bad atmosphere that exists now, Mr Putin’s remarks are hardly surprising,” the diplomat said, on condition of anonymity. 

He said that defence ministers from the 26 NATO allied nations would raise the test with their new Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov in talks on June 14. 

Before then, at Russia’s request, a conference will be held in Vienna on June 12 on the need to revise the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which regulates troop numbers and military hardware on the old continent. 

“It will probably all fall on deaf ears, with the result being that Russia will withdraw from the CFE,” the diplomat said. 

The Kremlin, in an earlier broadside against NATO for not ratifying the CFE, had already announced a freeze on the treaty. 

According to Russia’s strategic command, “the RS-24 reinforces the military potential of the strategic forces to overcome anti-missile defence systems.” 

At the moment this could only be the shield developed by the United States — with bases in Alaska and California, as well as components in Britain and Greenland — aimed at so-called rogue states like Iran. 

But if the diplomatic context in which the test took place is clear — not to mention the Kremlin’s message after it was fired — the technical importance of the test itself is not so obvious. 

“It is a genuine new missile but it uses technologies of the Topol-M,” a current missile type, a strategic forces spokesman told AFP. 

But unlike the Topol-M, the prototype RS-24 is apparently equipped with multiple independently targetable warheads to overwhelm defence systems. 

Russia’s defence ministry refused to reveal the exact characteristics of the new missile other than to say it was designed to replace the Soviet-era RS-18 and RS-20 missiles. 

“Is it a new missile or an update? We don’t know yet,” said Claire Brunaus, from British-based defence specialists Jane’s Information Group. 

“We certainly know this is a new designation but whether the missile itself is actually physically new, that we don’t know,” she said. 

The RS-24s could contain up to four warheads and potentially give Russia the ability to hit targets up to 10,000 kilometres away. 

“They are providing the military with tremendous targeting flexibility,” said Bruno Gruselle at the Paris-based Strategic Research Foundation (FRS). “And no anti-missile defence system is strong enough to counter them.” 

But he noted that the “apparent target” of the test was more likely to be a psychological one, as negotiations on the shield continue, namely, “the Polish public, to get Warsaw to stop taking part in the American shield.”


May 30, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, news, personal, politics, random, religion, Terrorism, Terrorism In The U.S., Terrorism News, Uncategorized, War-On-Terror

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