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Putin Frowns on U.S. Missiles in Europe

The Associated Press
Thursday, February 1, 2007; 8:30 AM

MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin on Thursday scoffed at Washington's claims that possible deployment of U.S. missile defense sites in central Europe was intended to counter threats posed by Iran and said that Russia would take countermeasures.

U.S. officials have said that proposed missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic will be designed to intercept missiles planned by Iran that would be capable of reaching eastern Europe and will not affect Russia's security. But Putin said the Kremlin didn't trust that claim.

"Our military experts don't believe that the missile defense systems to be deployed in eastern Europe are intended to counter the threat from Iran or some terrorists," Putin said at his annual news conference, adding that Iran only has missiles which aren't capable of reaching Europe.

"We consider such claims unfounded, and, naturally, that directly concerns us and will cause a relevant reaction. That reaction will be asymmetrical, but it will be highly efficient," Putin said.

Putin said that Russia's latest Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles were capable of penetrating missile defenses and added that more effective weapons systems are being developed.

"We will have next-generation systems immune to any prospective missile defense," Putin said. He said that while missile defense systems under development will only be capable of tackling ballistic missiles, the new weapons will be capable of changing the altitude and direction of their flight on their way to target.

"Missile defense systems are helpless against that," Putin said.

He rejected allegations that the planned deployment of U.S. missile defense sites in Europe could be a response to Russia's growing defense spending, saying the U.S. move had been planned long before growing oil revenues gave Russia a chance to increase its defense spending. He said Moscow's military budget is still 25 times smaller than Washington's defense spending.

© 2007 The Associated Press