Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Russian General Threatens to Strike First

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Russian General Threatens to Strike First

Article excerpt

MOSCOW -- A senior Russian general has threatened pre-emptive attacks on missile defense sites in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe in the event of a crisis, underscoring the Kremlin's opposition to the Obama administration's plans and further undermining relations between the countries.

While Russian officials have said previously that the anti- missile sites could become targets in the event of war, the threat of a pre-emptive attack was new.

The remarks Wednesday from the general, Nikolai Makarov, chief of the general staff --coming just days before Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is set to assume the presidency for the second time -- might signal a shift to a more muscular foreign policy than that pursued by the outgoing president, Dmitry Medvedev. Paradoxically, some experts said, the general's hawkishness might be welcome in the White House, which in an election year is concerned with warding off Republican accusations that it is going soft on Russia.

Speculation aside, the remarks seem likely to further inflame an already tense relationship. In recent months, the Kremlin has resisted Washington's entreaties to pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad's government about the regime's response to a popular uprising there and has given a cold shoulder to new U.S. Ambassador Michael A. McFaul, with prominent commentators and politicians accusing him of trying to foment revolution in Russia.

Gen. Makarov was speaking at a conference in Moscow on anti- ballistic missile policy, hosted by the Russian Ministry of Defense. In his speech, one of many spelling out opposition to the plan, he went on to specify the type of Russian short-range missiles that might target locations in Eastern Europe.

"Taking into account a missile defense system's destabilizing nature -- that is, the creation of an illusion that a disarming strike can be launched with impunity -- a decision on pre-emptive employment of the attack weapons available could be made when the situation worsens," Gen. Makarov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Alexander Vershbow, NATO's deputy secretary-general, played down the general's speech. …

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