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U.S. missile plan aims to encircle Russia

WARSAW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday blasted US plans for an anti-missile shield.

He labelled US plans to build a global missile defence shield an example of "imperial thinking," and suggested in comments published Thursday that Washington was using the system to try to encircle Russia.

Sergey Lavrov said in an interview published in leading Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza that elements of the missile defence system "exist or will be built in Alaska, California, north-east Asia."

"If we look at a map, it's clear that all of it is concentrating around our borders," he was quoted as saying. "Most likely in the near future we are going to hear about hundreds, and maybe even thousands, of interceptors in various regions of the planet, including Europe."

Washington wants to place 10 missile defence interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the neighbouring Czech Republic as part of a global system that it says is necessary to protect against future attacks from Iran.

The US and Poland have stressed that the system poses no threat to Russia and its vast nuclear arsenal, and is instead designed to protect the US and Europe from Iran.

Lavrov brushed aside those assurances, saying "such a threat does not exist." He said only one country in Eastern Europe has strategic ballistic missiles--Russia.

"That's why you would have to be very naive to assume that the American missile defence base in Europe is aimed against anything but Russia," he was quoted as saying.

"It's difficult to interpret it as anything other than a manifestation of imperial thinking." Russia is incensed by the prospect of US installations in a region that it controlled during the Cold War, and has threatened to attack the bases causing deep anxiety in Poland. Lavrov called US plans to build a missile defence base in Poland "only a trial balloon," adding that "Russia does not fear 10 interceptors."

"Much more dangerous for us is the trend of American infrastructure getting closer to our borders," he said, Gazeta Wyborcza reported. "We don't see any justification for this step."

"We are talking openly with the Americans about our fears. If the plan goes through, we are going to be forced to respond adequately, developing our strategic forces near our borders."

Last week, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said during a visit to Washington that Poland had agreed in principle to hosting the base after Warsaw received assurances that the United States would help Poland strengthen its short- to medium-range air defences.

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