The Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) was successfullylaunched from the Plesetsk facility in northwestern Russia and itsdummy warhead landed on target on the Kamchatka peninsula on thePacific coast, the Defense Ministry said. The new missile is expected to improve Russia's offensive arsenal,"including by increasing the capability to overcome missile defensesystems that are being created", the ministry said in a statement. Russia opposes a missile shield the United States and NATO aredeploying in Europe, saying it will be able to intercept Russianwarheads by about 2018, weakening Moscow's nuclear arsenal andupsetting the post-Cold War balance of power. The United States says the system is intended to counter apotential threat from Iran and poses no risk to Russia, but theKremlin has rejected those assurances and stepped up criticism ofthe system, to be deployed in four phases by about 2020. Last autumn, then-President Dmitry Medvedev outlined steps Russiawas taking to neutralize the perceived threat, including upgradesto Russia's offensive nuclear arsenal. |
Russia and the United States are still in talks to agreecooperation on missile defense, but Moscow has warned of furthermeasures if no such deal is reached and Washington refuses toprovide binding guarantees its system will not threaten Russia. At a conference in Moscow this month, senior General NikolaiMakarov said Russia could carry out pre-emptive strikes on futureNATO missile defense installations to protect its security. The European system is to include interceptor missile installationsin Poland and Romania and a radar in Turkey as well as interceptorsand radars on ships based in the Mediterranean Sea. Russia usually names its weapons, but the Defense Ministry made nomention of a name for the new missile. It said it could be firedfrom a mobile launcher.
Missile defense has troubled ties between Russia and the UnitedStates since the Cold War. The dispute over the current project has developed despitePresident Barack Obama's decision in 2009 to scrap the previousadministration's plans for longer-range interceptors, which helpedimprove relations after a period of growing tension. Western officials say improvements to Russia's ICBM arsenalundermine Moscow's argument that the system will present a threatand suggest the Kremlin wants to use the issue as a bargaining chipin broader talks on nuclear arms cuts. During his 2000-2008 Kremlin term, President Vladimir Putinrepeatedly said Russia would improve its offensive nuclearcapability in response to U.S.
missile defense plans. In 2007, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, now Putin'schief of staff, was quoted by Russian news agencies as sayingRussia already had weapons that could overcome any current orfuture missile defense system. (Writing by Steve Gutterman; editing by Andrew Roche).
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