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Russia tests missile, warns against U.S. shield

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 30, 2007


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MOSCOW - Russia tested new missiles Tuesday that a Kremlin official boasted could penetrate any defense system, and President Vladimir Putin warned that U.S. plans for an antimissile shield in Europe would turn the region into a "powder keg."

First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said that Russia tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple independent warheads and that it also successfully conducted a "preliminary" test of a tactical cruise missile that he said could fly farther than existing, similar weapons.

"Russia has new tactical and strategic complexes that are capable of overcoming any existing or future missile defense systems, " Ivanov said. "So in terms of defense and security, Russians can look calmly to the country's future."

Ivanov is a former defense minister seen as a potential Kremlin favorite to succeed Putin next year. Both he and Putin have said repeatedly that Russia would continue to improve its nuclear arsenals and respond to U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia has bristled at the plans, dismissing U.S. assertions that the system would be aimed at blocking possible attacks by Iran and saying it would destroy the strategic balance of forces in Europe.

"We consider it harmful and dangerous to turn Europe into a powder keg and to fill it with new kinds of weapons, " Putin said.

The ICBM, called the RS-24, was fired from a mobile launcher at the Plesetsk launch site in northwestern Russia. Its test warhead landed on target some 3, 400 miles away on the Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula, the Strategic Missile Forces said in a statement.

Ivanov said the missile was a new version of the Topol-M, first commissioned in 1997 and known as the SS-27 in the West, but one that can carry multiple independent warheads, ITAR-Tass reported. Existing Topol-M missiles are capable of hitting targets more than 6, 000 miles away.

While Ivanov's saber-rattling about missile defense penetration was clearly aimed at the United States - and at Russians who will vote in March for a successor to Putin - he suggested Russia's armament efforts were also aimed to counter a potential threat from the Middle East and Asia.

Matthew Bunn of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs said he did not think the Russians had planned the test as a reaction to U.S. plans to deploy the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, although they may have worded Tuesday's announcement to make it appear that way.

"If anything, the wording of the announcement may have been changed to emphasize the missile's ability to evade defense systems, but the test was probably planned way before, " Bunn said.

[Last modified May 30, 2007, 01:44:55]


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