Hillary hits back at Russia over missile threat

Hillary Clinton said their NATO missile shield is mainly aimed at countering a threat from Iran.

Updated: Dec 09, 2011, 00:09 AM IST

Brussels: US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton hit back on Thursday at a Russian threat to deploy weapons
in response to a NATO missile shield as the two sides failed
to defuse a rift over the US-backed system.

"We will continue to press forward on missile defence,"
Clinton told a press conference in Brussels after talks
between NATO foreign ministers and their Russian counterpart
Sergei Lavrov.

"It does not affect our strategic balance with Russia and
it`s certainly not a cause for military counter-measures," she
said.

Despite the disagreement, the two sides agreed to forge
ahead with negotiations on cooperating in the system but
Lavrov warned that time was running out.

Seeking to allay Russian fears that the defence system to
be deployed partly in former Soviet bloc countries will
undermine Russia`s strategic arsenal, Clinton said it was
mainly aimed at countering a threat from Iran.

"This is not directed at Russia, it is not about Russia.

It is frankly about Iran and other state or non-state actors
who are seeking to develop threatening missile technology,"
she said.

President Dmitry Medvedev last month announced that Russia
was ready to deploy intermediate range Iskander missiles in
the Kaliningrad exclave that borders EU members Poland and
Lithuania.

Russia later also switched on a new radar warning system
against incoming missiles in Kaliningrad and said it reserved
the right to strike NATO`s European shield components if its
demands were not met.

Top Russian General Nikolai Makarov has warned that
Moscow was "being pushed" into a new arms race.

Clinton already angered Russia this week by voicing
"serious concerns" about the country`s parliamentary
elections. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused her of
provoking post-election protests.

The US chief diplomat defended her remarks, saying she
was "supportive of the rights and aspirations" of the Russian
people to seek "a better future".

NATO and the United States have sought to improve ties
with Russia since President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

The former Cold War foes agreed last year to explore ways
to cooperate in the system, being set up with interceptor
missiles based in Romania and Poland, missiles aboard US ships
in Spain and a radar system in Turkey.

PTI