Top Russian general calls U.S. expansion top national security threat

AP February 9, 2007

Top Russian general calls U.S. expansion top national security threat

Russia’s top military officer said the United
States is expanding its economic, political and
military presence in Russia’s traditional zones
of influence, and described it as the top
national security threat, in the latest signal of
a growing chill in U.S.-Russian relations.

Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of the Russian
military’s General Staff, said Russia now faces
even greater military threats than during the
Cold War and that the nation needs a new military
doctrine to respond to these challenges,
according to a speech posted on the Defense Ministry’s Web site Friday.

“Russia’s cooperation with the West on the basis
of forming common or close strategic interests
hasn’t helped its military security,” Baluyevsky
said in the speech, delivered at a recent
security conference in Moscow . “Moreover, the
situation in many regions of the world which are
vitally important for Russia and near its borders
has sometimes become more difficult.”

Russian-U.S. ties have worsened steadily over
disagreements on Iraq and other global crises,
and U.S. concerns about an increasingly
authoritarian streak in Russia’s domestic policy
and strong-arming of ex-Soviet neighbors.

Baluyevsky referred to what he called “the U.S.
military leadership’s course aimed at maintaining
its global leadership and expanding its economic,
political and military presence in Russia’s
traditional zones of influence” as a top threat for Russia’s national security.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has reacted
angrily to U.S. plans to deploy missile defense
sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, saying
Moscow doesn’t trust U.S. claims they were aimed
to counter missile threats from Iran and will
take relevant countermeasures. Both countries are
former Soviet satellites that became NATO members.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, meanwhile, said
Russia would find an “intellectual response” to
the U.S. move and not plunge into a new arms
race, according to an interview with Germany’s
Der Spiegel magazine posted on the ministry’s Web site Friday.

Russian officials have assailed the United States
and its NATO allies for their refusal to ratify
an amended version of the Conventional Forces in
Europe treaty which regulates the deployment of
military aircraft, tanks and other heavy
non-nuclear weapons around the continent.

Russia has ratified the amended version of the
treaty signed in 1999, but the United States and
other NATO members have refused to do that until
Russia abides by its commitment to withdraw
troops from the ex-Soviet republics of Moldova and Georgia.

Russia said the link was irrelevant, and threatened to opt out of the treaty.

In remarks posted Friday, Lavrov said that the
failure to ratify the amended document had “led
to very serious imbalances between the armed
forces,” since the arsenals of former Soviet
allies which that have joined NATO were counted
alongside Soviet weapons in the original 1990 CFE Treaty.

Amid growing distrust of U.S. intentions,
Russia’s lawmakers and commentators reacted
nervously to comments by U.S. Defense Secretary
Robert Gates naming Russia as a potential threat.

“We don’t know what’s going to develop in places
like Russia and China, in North Korea, in Iran
and elsewhere,” Gates told a House of
Representatives committee meeting earlier this
week, according to a Pentagon transcript.

The daily newspaper Gazeta on Friday said that
Gates’ statement could “go down to history books
as a starting point for a new twist of the Cold War.”

Viktor Ozerov, the head of the defense committee
in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said
Gates’ comments signaled “U.S. attempts to draw
our nation into a new arms race,” the Interfax
news agency quoted him as saying. “We will have
to find an asymmetrical response.”.

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