MOSCOW – A senior general warned Wednesday that Russia could deploy short-range missiles to Belarus as part of efforts to counter the planned deployment of U.S. missile defense sites in Europe, Russian news reports said.
Col. Gen. Vladimir Zaritsky, the chief of artillery and rocket forces for the Russian Ground Troops, said that "any action meets a counteraction, and this is the case with elements of the U.S. missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic," the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
The U.S. plan would install a radar base in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland — both former Soviet satellites that are now NATO members. It is part of a wider missile shield involving defenses in California and Alaska that the United States says are to defend against any long-range missile attack from countries such as North Korea or Iran.
Russia strongly opposes the idea, saying Iran is decades away from developing missile technology that could threaten Europe or North America, and it says the U.S. bases will undermine Russia's own missile deterrent force.
Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, a pariah in the West for his relentless crackdown on dissent and free media, has relied on Russia's support and the two nations have developed close political and military ties.