Russia's Putin warns Washington over missile shield

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MOSCOW, Oct 18 (Reuters) President Vladimir Putin warned the United States today that Russia could take retaliatory measures if Washington failed to take heed of its concerns over a missile defence shield in Europe.

''I can assure you that such steps are being prepared and we will take them. Where we should station what, that is for specialists of the Russian military's general staff,'' Putin said in response to a question about how to respond to the shield.

The United States plans to place interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic as part of a shield Washington says is needed to counter possible attacks from ''rogue states'' such as Iran and North Korea.

Russia says the shield is a threat to its security and could spark an arms race, concerns US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates sought to ease in Moscow talks last week. Putin welcomed their efforts.

''The latest contacts with our American colleagues show that they have indeed given some thought to the proposals we made and they are looking for a solution to the problems and for ways to ease our concerns,'' Putin said.

Putin's comments appeared to echo a warning made in July by First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov that Russia could deploy new missiles, including in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, in response to the missile shield.

His warning on missile defence was in response to a question from a voter in Kaliningrad, Russia's westernmost outpost, at a three-hour annual question-and-answer session.

The Kremlin leader also said Russia was working on new types of nuclear weapons as part of a ''grandiose'' plan to boost the country's defences.

Military experts have speculated that Russia could eventually deploy its new Iskander-M tactical missiles to counter the US missile shield.

POLAND'S RESPONSE Russian generals say the shield would allow the United States to scan Russia's territory as far as the Urals, and would give the Pentagon the capability to shoot down Russian ballistic missiles soon after launch.

Putin has offered the United States joint use of a Russia-leased radar station in Azerbaijan as an alternative to the missile shield in Europe.

Kaliningrad is surrounded by new NATO members Poland and Lithuania. The city of Kaliningrad -- the former Prussian city of Koenigsberg which was seized by Russia as a World War Two trophy -- is closer to Warsaw than Moscow.

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said today in Warsaw that hosting the shield could help protect his country, citing a possible threat from Russia.

Poland, which votes in a parliamentary election on Sunday, has previously said the shield was not linked to Russia.

''This will boost our security ..... We have to remember that we are in a state of permanent threat. The Russians have not accepted the changes since 1989 and it is obvious that they consider us as within their sphere of influence,'' he said at a news conference.'' Kaczynski was referring to the fall of communism in 1989, which ended Soviet domination over Poland.


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