Russia's Putin warns Washington over missile shield
( Reuters ) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday the United States was seeking ways to resolve differences over a planned missile shield, but warned that Moscow could re-deploy weapons if its concerns were not heeded.
Washington plans to place interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic as part of a shield it says is needed to counter possible missile attacks from "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea.
Russia says the shield is a threat to its own security. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates were in Moscow for talks on the issue last week.
"The latest contacts with our American colleagues show that they have indeed given some thought to the proposals we made and they are looking for a solution to the problems and for ways to ease our concerns," Putin said.
But Putin, in an annual three-hour question-and-answer session aired live on state television, said Russia would take retaliatory steps if its interests were not taken into account.
"I can assure you that such steps are being prepared and we will take them. Where we should station what, that is for specialists of the Russian military's general staff," he said. He gave no more details about what steps Russia might take.
But his comments appeared to echo a warning made in July by First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov that Russia could deploy new missiles, including in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, in response to the missile shield.
Putin made his comment on Thursday in reply to a question from a voter in Kaliningrad, Russia's westernmost outpost.
Russian generals say the shield would allow the United States to scan Russia's territory as far the Urals, and would give the Pentagon the capability to shoot down Russian ballistic missiles soon after launch.
Putin has offered the United States joint use of a Russia-leased radar station in Azerbaijan as an alternative to the missile shield in Europe.
Kaliningrad is surrounded by new NATO members Poland and Lithuania. The city of Kaliningrad -- the former Prussian city of Koenigsberg which was seized by Russia as a World War Two trophy -- is closer to Warsaw than Moscow.
Military experts speculate that Russia could eventually deploy its new Iskander-M tactical missiles to counter the U.S. missile shield.