White House defends missile defense after Russian warning

WASHINGTON Wed Nov 23, 2011 1:01pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Wednesday that U.S. and NATO plans to deploy a European missile shield by 2020 remain on track, after Russian warned it would arm itself with missiles able to defeat the shield.

"In multiple channels, we have explained to Russian officials that the missile defense systems planned for deployment in Europe do not and cannot threaten Russia's strategic deterrent," said White House national security council spokesman Tommy Vietor.

"Its implementation is going well and we see no basis for threats to withdraw from it," he said, adding "We will not in any way limit or change our deployment plans in Europe."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday in Moscow that Russia would ramp up its early-warning radar to protect its nuclear missile sites, deploy weapons that could overcome a shield, and potentially target missile defense installations to its south and west.

Washington said Moscow had no reason to worry.

"The United States has been open and transparent with Russia on our plans for missile defense in Europe, which reflect a growing threat to our allies from Iran that we are committed to deterring," Vietor said in a statement.

"We continue to believe that cooperation with Russia on missile defense can enhance the security of the United States, our allies in Europe, and Russia, and we will continue to work with Russia to define the parameters of possible cooperation."

(Reporting by Alister Bull; editing by Philip Barbara)

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