Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hadley Sent To Moscow To Try To Mend Fences

At a time when the "Axis of Evil" occupies most of the time and attention of the U.S. national security bureaucracy, our relationship with the "Evil Empire" can use some hands-on care.

President's Bush's national security adviser is embarking on a high-level mission to Moscow and other European capitals, just over a week after incendiary remarks about Bush and the United States by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Stephen Hadley was departing Washington Tuesday for a four-day trip to Brussels, Moscow and Berlin, said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for Hadley and Bush's National Security Council.

In Brussels, Hadley planned to meet with NATO and European Union officials. In Moscow and Berlin, he was scheduled to sit down with his counterparts in the Russian and German governments.

"This is part of ongoing discussions that will cover a full range of issues," Johndroe said.

The planned U.S. ABM system to be located in Poland and the Czech Republic -- the proximate cause for Putin's outburst in Munich -- will be on the agenda.

An increasingly angry dispute over U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Central Europe is adding strain to already fragile U.S.-Russian relations.

Under the proposal, the United States would build silos in Poland to hold 10 interceptor rockets that could destroy intercontinental ballistic missiles fired at the United States or even command sites in Europe. The accompanying radar system would be located in the Czech Republic.

U.S. officials say the system is not directed against Russia, but at the potential threat posed by missiles being developed by Iran.

That argument has been dismissed in Russia as spurious. ...

"If the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic take such a step, the strategic missile forces will be capable of targeting these facilities if a relevant decision is made," Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of Russian missile forces, said at a news conference Monday. ...

Irina Kobrinskaya, an analyst at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow, said the Russian military might have grudgingly accepted the system if it were deployed on NATO's southern rim in Turkey, Romania or Bulgaria. But its placement to the north -- in the Czech Republic and Poland, which shares a land border with the Russian region of Kaliningrad -- has raised deep suspicion here.

"Elements of this new system can present a threat to Russia and that's the logic of the military," Kobrinskaya said in an interview.

For Russians, the system is part of a deeper pattern of what they see as U.S. encirclement, particularly through the continuing expansion of NATO.


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