Missile defense sites in Eastern Europe have long irritated Russia. The general's speech may signal a more hawkish Moscow.
MOSCOW - Russia may consider a preemptive strike on a missile defense system in Europe if the U.S.-led NATO project continues as planned, a top official said Thursday.
Russian Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov, in a sign of the tension between Russia and the United States over the missile defense plans, said during an international conference that a strike by his country might be possible. "A decision to use destructive force pre-emptively will be taken if the situation worsens," he said.
Officials showed a computerized version of imaginary strikes by Russian nuclear missiles on imaginary targets on the U.S. East Coast. Alexander Vershbow, NATO's deputy secretary-general and a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, said that there was no desire to disturb global strategic stability with the planned missile defense system.
"Quite the contrary: NATO missile defense will be capable of intercepting only a small number of relatively unsophisticated ballistic missiles," Vershbow said. "It does not have the capability to neutralize Russian deterrence."
Alexander Golts, a defense expert and deputy editor in chief of the Yezhednevny Zhurnal, or Weekly Journal, a liberal online publication, said that the Kremlin was building political pressure before the NATO summit this month in Chicago, but probably had no intention of following through with a strike against the U.S. or NATO. "The Kremlin will never dare," Golts said.
LOS ANGELES TIMES