VLADIVOSTOK, Russia, May 28 (UPI) -- Moscow is taking countermeasures that would negate a U.S. anti-missile shield's ability to affect its nuclear deterrent, a Russian defense official says.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said in an interview Saturday that should NATO and the United States unilaterally proceed with a European anti-ballistic missile shield without Russia as an equal partner, Moscow is readying "military-technical measures" that would hamper its ability to function.
Russian officials have repeatedly voiced vehement opposition to a unilateral U.S.-NATO missile defense shield as a threat to its own security and a major obstacle to bilateral relations, saying it could easily be re targeted from countering threats from Iran and the Middle East toward Russia's own nuclear deterrent.
Moscow is insisting on long-term legally binding guarantees that any such system wouldn't be used against it and is seeking de facto joint control through the sharing of technical criteria -- a possibility the U.S. Senate has rejected.
It is also pushing for a new security treaty covering all of Europe, including Russia, to replace NATO's role.
The United States in March effectively suspended the fourth and final phase of its unilateral European missile defense system -- part of a plan to instead deploy additional ABM interceptors to counter North Korea, The New York Times reported.
Antonov, fresh from last week's Moscow Conference on European Security, told the Russia 1 television channel in an interview from Vladivostok the Kremlin is preparing unnamed contingency plans to ensure its nuclear deterrent force would remain viable if NATO and the United States go ahead with their anti-missile plans.
"On the possibility of taking military-technical measures, we've talked all the time about it," he said. "This was first stated by (Russian President Vladimir Putin) in November of last year.
"If and when the U.S. missile defense system is created and is aimed at undermining the nuclear deterrent, the Department of Defense will take steps that will not allow the Americans to achieve any result," Antonov said.
Asked if that meant that a future U.S.-NATO anti-missile shield would be "neutralized" if a nation such as Iran launched a nuclear missile at Europe, Antonov said it would be difficult to speculate on such a scenario.
"Well, first, the Iranians do not have such missiles and when they will have them nobody will know," he said. "And by the way, the last-minute decision by the Americans to suspend the implementation of the fourth stage suggests Washington recognizes that the Iranians in the short term have no such missiles and will not have such missiles."
The Russian official asserted that by "electing Iran" as the enemy of Europe, "the Americans are trying to realize their missile defense plans, which, in fact, won't defend Europe and create a problem for the Russian-American and Russian-NATO relations."
At last week's Moscow conference, NATO Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Security Policy Dirk Brengelmann said political assurances that a European missile defense wouldn't target Russia were already made at last year's NATO summit in Chicago.
Instead, NATO is offering two joint NATO-Russia missile defense centers and "reciprocal transparency measures to address concerns and avoid misperceptions."
Antonov, however, told RIA Novosti last week, "'Transparency' is a good word but transparency will never solve all the concerns that exist in our country.
"Today we warn our American friends: We do not want confrontation, we want cooperation. Please do not create a system that leads us into an arms race. All we want is to agree under certain conditions."