Moscow: Russia's air force chief, Gen. Vladimir Mikhailov, revealed on March 13 that Russia was working on a new generation air defense system that would go further than its existing technology, as represented by the S-400 Triumf (Triumph) anti aircraft missile system. His revelation is the latest in a gradually escalating war of words between the United States and Russia after the US announced plans to deploy a missile shield in the Eastern European countries of Poland and the Czech Republic.
"We are moving to the creation of a new system of anti-aircraft defense which will significantly surpass the capabilities of the S-400," Mikhailov told a meeting of foreign military attaches in Moscow. The existing S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missile system has a range of 400 km (250 miles).
"This is not an offensive but rather a defensive weapon," Mikhailov clarified.
Poland and the Czech Republic, one time Soviet allies, now belong to the NATO bloc and are being invited to host elements of a US sponsored missile shield on their territory.
Russia claims that Washington did not consult it properly on the issue, even as the US says that the shield would protect its allies from an attack from "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea. It has also said that the missile shield does not threaten Russia.
Under the US plan, while Poland would host a missile battery, a radar system would be sited in the Czech Republic. As part of the war of words that has erupted since the announcement, Russian officials have gone on record to say that they would target the installations in the countries that host the missile system.
Europe's BMD dilemma
Meanwhile, Germany has now upped the ante, as far as the issue is concerned, with chancellor Angela Merkel making a sharp attack on Poland for its decision to host a part of the missile shield on its territory. She said that the issue of a missile shield in Europe was something for NATO to decide as a bloc and not to be decided on a bilateral basis with Washington.
Merkel made her comments ahead of a scheduled meeting with president Vladimir Putin in Hanover today. On Friday she travels to Poland where she is expected to take up the matter with Polish president Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
"We, and I, will say that in Poland we would prefer a solution within NATO and also an open discussion with Russia," she told ZDF public television.
Her call for NATO inclusion met with an immediate rebuff with a NATO spokesman saying that the alliance would not interfere in negotiations between the United States and Poland or the Czech Republic. "NATO must first agree on the threats and, to the extent possible, a common approach," said James Appathurai, the alliance spokesman. "NATO is in no way engaging in these bilateral talks."
It may be mentioned that Britain and Denmark are also holding talks with Washington on accepting parts of the grid.