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Russia threatens preemptive strike over planned US missile shield

Russia’s chief of defense staff reportedly warned Thursday that his country was prepared to use "destructive force preemptively" to stop the United States from creating a missile-defense system in Europe.

General Nikolai Makarov made the remark as another Russian official said international talks about the plan were near stalemate, although NATO remained optimistic a deal would be reached, BBC News reported.

Washington says the missile defense system -- due to be completed in four phases by roughly 2020 -- is meant to counter a potential threat from Iran. Moscow says the system will undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent because it could also give the West the ability to shoot down Russian missiles.

"A decision to use destructive force preemptively will be taken if the situation worsens," Makarov said, according to BBC News.

He said Russia would improve its defenses to counter the perceived threat, Russia Today reported.

"The deployment of new offensive armaments in southern and northwestern Russia … including Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad Region, provides for the destruction of the European missile defense infrastructure,” Makarov added.

Talks at dead end?
Negotiations between the U.S., NATO and Russia began Thursday in Moscow. However, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said the discussions were "close to a dead end," BBC News reported.

The Kremlin wants a legally binding guarantee the system will not be used against Russia. The United States says it cannot agree to any formal limits on missile defense.

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Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who was in London, U.K., said Thursday he was “hopeful” that a deal could be reached.

Rasmussen said a deal would not happen before a NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21.

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"We will continue our dialogue with Russia...after the Chicago meeting," he told reporters.

The missile shield's first phase is to be declared up and running at the summit.

Russia missiles shown heading to U.S. cities
The planned system will include interceptor missiles based in Poland and Romania, a radar system in Turkey and missile-defense capable warships at sea.

At the conference in Moscow, Makarov told delegates the system will have the potential to intercept Russian IBMs and submarine-launched strategic ballistic missiles by 2017-18.

The audience, including U.S. and NATO officials, were shown computer-generated images depicting the reach of radars and interceptor missiles to be deployed as part of the shield.

Dome-like designs displaying interceptor ranges and blips of light representing Russian missiles headed for U.S. cities lit up the screen. 

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