'Permanent Presence' Wanted: Russia Demands Access to US Missile Shield Sites
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has demanded that Russia be allowed 'permanent' access to planned US missile shield defense facilities in Eastern Europe. His wish seems unlikely to be granted.
Protesters in Prague in June 2007 voice their opposition to a US radar base to be built in the Czech Republic.
"In all these many proposals," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Ekho Moskvy radio station, according to Reuters, "we are interested only in two things: the permanent presence of our officers and reliable technological means of monitoring (activity at the sites)."
"For us it is important that we should see second-by-second where the radar is looking," Lavrov added, "and what is happening at the base in the Czech Republic."
As part of the planned missile shield, the US intends to build a battery of 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar installation in the Czech Republic. The Bush administration claims the missile system is aimed at protecting against missile strikes from "rogue nations," in particular Iran. Russia, however, views the proposed missiles as a provocative act that threatens the security balance between Russia and the West.
The minister's comments come after last weekend's talks at the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi between US President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to Lavrov, the US turned down Russian demands for a constant Russian presence at the sites but did offer to allow Russian officers to visit the sites occasionally and on the basis of reciprocity.
According to the Associated Press, Poland's top missile negotiator, Witold Waszczykowski, called Russia's demand "too far-fetched" and said that any inspection regime would have to include reciprocity.
The response from the Czech Republic echoed that of Poland. "A permanent presence is not something we would be considering," said Tomas Pojar, the Czech Republic's deputy foreign minister, according to Reuters. However the Czech Republic has proposed that liaison officers could have access to the base.
Lavrov responded to questions about a possible Russian response by denying that Russia would consider deploying its own missile defense sites in allied countries, such as Cuba and Venezeula. Instead, Lavrov said, "Russia would respond by military-technical measures."
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