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Russia Expresses Concern Over US Missile Defense - 2002-12-18


Russian officials have expressed concern over a U.S. announcement of plans to build a limited missile defense system.

In a statement, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said U.S. plans to build a missile defense system are now moving into a new, destabilizing phase, a phase Russia views with regret.

Officials from the ministry added that the U.S. decision could lead to a new arms race and distract attention from the most important threat in today's world: international terrorism.

President George W. Bush on Tuesday told the Pentagon to begin work within two years on missile interceptors that will be the first stage in a larger missile defense system. The plan calls for basing up to 20 interceptors in Alaska and California. An additional 20 sea-based interceptors would also be deployed.

U.S. officials said that in initial years the system would not defend against all ballistic missiles but would later be expanded to provide a more comprehensive shield.

The United States says such a system is necessary to defend itself and its allies against so-called rogue states the United States says are trying to obtain weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them.

A year ago, the United States announced it would pull out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to go ahead with plans to build a missile defense shield. Such a system was not allowed under the ABM treaty.

At the time, Russia voiced its disapproval of the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty, saying it was a vital factor in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Russian officials are also known to fear that their own nuclear arsenal would be rendered obsolete should the shield be successfully completed.

The missile shield will cost billions of dollars to construct and many critics question whether it will ever work. A recent test of the anti-missile system failed, but U.S. officials say they are confident the system will soon be perfected.