U.S.: Russia won't stop arms shield
WASHINGTON – The U.S. ambassador to NATO on Friday dismissed recent expressions of outrage from Moscow over proposed missile defenses in Europe, saying the NATO deployment will proceed "whether Russia likes it or not."
The ambassador, Ivo Daalder, said the United States was well aware that "there are significant forces within Russia" that believe that the alliance's system of radars and interceptors could blunt Moscow's own arsenal of missiles and thus undermine Russia's strategic deterrent.
Daalder said he would meet officials from Moscow at NATO headquarters in Brussels next week to explain – once again – that the alliance shield is designed solely to defend against a potential missile attack from Iran.
But Daalder also noted that recent complaints, especially from President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, might be motivated by the demands of domestic politics ahead of national elections there. The American commitment to work with NATO allies and deploy the missile shield is founded on a belief that Iran is accelerating its program to field missiles capable of reaching across NATO territory in Europe, Daalder said.
Since President Barack Obama announced new plans for the shield two years ago, Daalder said, "our estimate of the threat has gone up, not down. It is accelerating – this is the Iranian ballistic missile threat – and becoming more severe than even we thought two years ago."
Thus, he said, the United States and its allies remain wholly committed to the program.
"Whether Russia likes it or not, we are about defending NATO-European territory against a growing ballistic missile threat," Daalder said. "We will adapt the timing and the details to that threat, which is why the focus of our joint effort ought to be about how to figure out how to reduce that threat rather than trying to threaten and retaliate for a deployment that has nothing to do with Russia."
Last week, Medvedev threatened that Russia would deploy its own missiles and that it could withdraw from the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty if the United States proceeds with its plans for a missile-defense system in Europe.
Returning to that theme this week, Medvedev dismissed the idea that he was kicking around a political football.
Steven Pifer, an arms control expert who has managed Russia policy from top positions at the State Department and National Security Council, said that some of the tougher language out of Moscow seemed intended less for Washington and more for Russian voters, who head to the polls for parliamentary elections on Sunday. And with presidential elections in both Russia and the United States next year, the volume could grow louder, even though the basic positions in the missile-defense debate have not changed.
Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/12/03/4096642/us-russia-wont-stop-arms-shield.html#ixzz1fT5EXFjRShell ready to pull out s pressure on Syria rises Company says it will comply with sanctions
Royal Dutch Shell said it would cease operations in Syria to heed new EU sanctions against Damascus, deepening the international isolation of President Bashar Assad imposed over his violent crackdown on popular unrest.
In continuing bloodshed, Syrian army defectors killed eight air force intelligence personnel in an attack on their base in the north of the country, according to an opposition group.
On Friday, Syrian troops fired at random into an anti-Assad demonstration after Muslim prayers in the village of Kfar Laha northwest of the city of Homs, killing one man and wounding 10 people, opposition activists said.
Western and Arab countries have been intensifying punitive sanctions to press Assad to carry out pledges to halt bloodshed by withdrawing forces from restive cities, admitting Arab League observers and starting transition talks with the opposition.
Royal Dutch Shell said it would be shutting down in Syria to comply with EU sanctions slapped on Syria's economically vital oil and financial sectors the day before.
A Shell spokesman said: "Our main priority is the safety of our employees. . . . We hope the situation improves quickly for all Syrians."
The EU on Friday extended sanctions to three Syrian oil concerns, including the state-owned General Petroleum Corp. and Syria Trading Oil, to crank up the financial pressure on the Assad government.
The three oil concerns were among 11 entities and 12 Syrian leadership figures added to an EU blacklist now aimed in part at bringing the Syrian ventures of oil giants to a halt. Royal Dutch Shell was the first to bow out. Syrian oil comprises under 1 per cent of daily world output but accounts for a big chunk of Syrian government earnings.
The expanded EU sanctions list encompasses media companies and firms the EU says supply sensitive equipment to a research centre that supports Assad's suppression of dissent.
The U.S. and the Arab League have also imposed an array of economic sanctions and banned travel by some Syrian VIPs.
Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/Shell+ready+pull+pressure+Syria+rises/5807034/story.html#ixzz1fT5bj47f