( IHT ) - The director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said that Washington wanted to base antimissile radar in the Caucasus, a move likely to provoke another clash with Russia.
Speaking on a stop at NATO headquarters, the director, Lieutenant General Henry Obering, declined to specify which country the long-range radar could be installed in, but noted that "it would be very useful for the antimissile system."
Moscow has already angrily criticized Washington's plan to locate an antimissile system in the Czech Republic and Poland designed to answer a possible threat from Iran. It is likely that placing another radar in the territory of another U.S. ally, like Georgia or Azerbaijan, would provoke further protests.
Moscow has warned that Poland and the Czech Republic risk having Russian missiles aimed at them if they agree to be host to the U.S. antimissile bases.
Unlike antiaircraft systems, antimissile radars have very narrow beams that cannot be used to monitor large swaths of territory, like Russia. But they have high resolution and very long ranges, allowing them to follow objects the size of a baseball at distances of as much as 3,000 kilometers, or about 1,850 miles.
The Russian defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, called last month for the repeal of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, which was negotiated between the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan in 1987.
Some observers said the call was meant as retaliation for the proposed U.S. missile defense plans.
But Obering said Thursday that Russia's call for scrapping the treaty had nothing to do with the U.S. plans. "If this is something that the Russians are intent on doing, that is something they are pursuing for other reasons," Obering said.
In the latest in a series of statements by top officials in Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko warned that Russia would be forced to take unnamed countermeasures if the missile defense system were deployed.