A top Russian general said Friday that Poland's agreement to accept a U.S. missile interceptor base exposes the ex-communist nation to attack, possibly by nuclear weapons, the Interfax news agency reported.
The statement by Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn is the strongest threat that Russia has issued against the plans to put missile defense elements in former Soviet satellite nations.
Poland and the United States on Thursday signed a deal for Poland to accept a missile interceptor base as part of a system the United States says is aimed at blocking attacks by rogue nations. Moscow, however, feels it is aimed at Russia's missile force.
"Poland, by deploying (the system) is exposing itself to a strike — 100 percent," Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of staff, was quoted as saying.Meanwhile, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili agreed to changes to the tenuous cease-fire agreement with Russia today, despite some concessions to Moscow's interests in the conflict.
At a joint appearance with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Tiblisi after signing the accord, Saakashvili lashed out again at Russia and the West. We will "never, ever surrender" he said about the conflict with Russia.
He then accused the West of triggering Russian aggression by denying his country membership in NATO.
Rice defended the new cease-fire document, saying it requires that the Soviets leave Georgia immediately adding that the time has come "to begin a discussion of the consequences of what Russia has done."
Saakashvili used the opportunity to again criticize the West. He says he warned the world about a Russian military buildup for months. He says that Russia mobilized 1,200 tanks within hours to invade Georgian territory.
"This whole thing could of been prevented," Saakashvili said.
"We are today looking evil directly in the eye," a visibly emotional Saakashvili told reporters. He said Georgia would never reconcile itself to any occupation of its territory by Russia.
Earlier President Bush also lashed out at Moscow saying that "bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."
"Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected. Moscow must honor its commitment to withdraw its invading forces from all Georgian territory," Bush said before leaving for a vacation in Texas.
In a day marked by diplomacy, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany met with the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, to discuss the situation in Georgia.
Another sign of the deteriorating relations between Russia and the U.S. flared up Friday over the proposed U.S. missiles defense system that will be placed in Poland. Rice announced this week that final details have been worked out and she hopes to sign the agreement with Poland soon.
Senior Russian defense official, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, suggested that Poland was making itself a target by agreeing to host the anti-missile system. Such an action "cannot go unpunished," he warned.
In the Caucasus Friday, there are continued reports of Russian military maneuvers within Georgia, and U.S. intelligence reports indicate that for the last few days Russian soldiers have been steadily dismantling the Georgian military infrastructure, most recently blowing up several vessels in the Black Sea port of Poti.