27 December 2000
Russian Rocket Chief Warns U.S. on Missile Defense
By Jon Boyle

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow will respond to any unilateral move by the incoming U.S. administration to deploy a national missile defense shield without Russia's consent, the head of the country's nuclear rocket force said Wednesday.

``I am afraid that if that happens, then positive initiatives will, unfortunately, be lost,创 the Interfax news agency quoted General Vladimir Yakovlev as saying.

``Then we will simply be forced to speak in a different language and a different tone of voice,创 the Strategic Rocket Force commander said.

Yakovlev's comments were a direct response to Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell, a supporter of national missile defense known as NMD. Outgoing U.S. leader Bill Clinton ducked a decision on deployment of the ``Star Wars创-style missile shield.

Moscow has steadfastly refused to amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) which bans NMD, saying it would undermine Russia's own deterrent and trigger a new arms race that would suck in China.

President Vladimir Putin has vowed to tear up all arms control accords with Washington if it deploys the $60 billion dollar system regardless of Moscow's security concerns.

He has offered instead sharply lower nuclear arsenals and joint work on a non-strategic missile defense system. Moscow believes that, and diplomacy, could provide adequate protection against ``rogue states创 like North Korea and Iraq, that the United States says it needs protection from.

ABM Tariff

Last month, Yakovlev flagged a significant shift in Russia's position, saying Moscow could agree a fixed ABM tariff with the United States under which improved missile defense would be compensated for by cuts in offensive capacity.

The Foreign Ministry later played down the remarks.

Yakovlev's comments Wednesday coincided with the successful test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile by the Novomoskovsk cruiser in the Barents Sea.

A spokesman for Russia's Strategic Rocket Force confirmed that the rocket, launched at 0800 GMT, had hit its target in the Kamchatka region in Russia's far east. But he declined to say whether the test involved one of Russia's sophisticated new Topol-M missiles which Yakovlev said could form the vanguard of any Russian response to NMD.

``The Topol-M gives us the possibility of a symmetrical and asymmetrical response to any breach of the START-2 or ABM treaties,创 Interfax quoted Yakovlev as saying.

The Topol-M, a 47-tonne, single warhead rocket with a range of 10,000 km (6,200 miles), is seen by Russia as capable of breaching any defense system.

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