Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Turkey & Iraq Working Together To Block PKK Influence

Turkey & Iraq Working Together To Block PKK Influence
(NSI News Source Info) December 24, 2008: For months the Iraqi government (including the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq) have been promising Turkey that they would help stop PKK attacks on Turkey from Iraqi territory. Turkey has also wanted the Iraqis to do more than that?to include arresting senior PKK commanders. On this request, the Iraqis hesitate.
However, PKK commanders knowing that Iraqi assistance in stopping attacks into Turkey would likely mean shutting down PKK bases inside Iraq, and that would go a long way to totally destroying the organization. Now Turkey and Iraq are talking about a "three phase plan" to deal with the PKK.
The very fact they are discussing it and leaking it to the media sends a dire political signal to the PKK. Phase one is to increase the PKK's political isolation by having Iraq label the PKK as an "illegal organization" that is a political liability and a physical threat to both Turkish and Iraqi Kurds. Phase Two amounts to an Iraqi Kurd political appeal to the PKK to surrender.
If the PKK refuses the deal, Iraq and Turkey, backed by the US, would go after the PKK?in other words, the military solution. There are several flavors of military solution, however, some of which may have more appeal to Iraqi Kurds than the other. The Turks would attack the bases while Iraqi and US forces (and perhaps Turkish) cordon off escape routes to the south and east. December 18, 2008: Turkey said that it would try nine people who were arrested after the July 2008 bombs attacks in Istanbul that killed 17 people and wounded over 150 others. A Turkish prosecutor said all nine were members of the PKK. December 16, 2008: Turkish Air Force fighter-bombers struck several suspected PKK bases in northern Iraq. The Iraqi government reported heavy attacks on the town of Chuman. December 14, 2008: Two PKK rebels surrendered to Turkish security forces in Hakkari province. The two men said they had been in a PKK base in northern Iraq near the town of Zap. December 11, 2008: The Turkish government said that the PKK attack on October 3 on the Aktutun Gendarmerie Border post (near Semdinli in Hakkari province) had galvanized support throughout Turkey for intensifying the war against the PKK. 17 Turkish soldiers died in the battle. That attack has also spurred increased Turkish efforts to internationally isolate the PKK. Turkey has been trying for years to get the EU to crack down on PKK financial sources in Europe. December 8, 2008: The PKK declared a nine day long ceasefire to honor the Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice). December 7, 2008: Turkish soldiers and police killed two PKK rebels in a firefight in Sirnak province. They also found a weapons and ammunition cache. December 5, 2008: The Iraqi government said that in a recent "tri-lateral" meeting involving Turkey and the US, it had agreed to form a joint committee to "track the threat represented by the PKK…" The Iraqi statement called the PKK a threat both to Iraq and Turkey. This follows a statement by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that agreements with Turkey had laid down "the rules to confront the terrorist PKK." These are words Turkey wants to hear from Iraq. Turkey is insisting that Iraq's regional Kurdish government also identify the PKK as a terrorist organization. That would be a major diplomatic success for Turkey.

Private Air Forces Helping War Effort 24/7

Private Air Forces Helping War Effort 24/7 (NSI News Source Info) December 24, 2008: The U.S. military has a lot of small detachments all over Afghanistan, and Central Asian nations to the north. Keeping these bases supplied, and getting people in and out, can be difficult, because there is often no large air field nearby.
Enter Blackwater International, the security company that guards many of the American, and local, big shots in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blackwater has its own charter airline, Presidential Airways.
For the last five years, this outfit has supplied transport services to these out of the way places. Presidential uses 8 ton CASA 212 and 19 ton Dash-8 twin engine transports, as well as some medium helicopters.
It's the twin engine transports that do most of the work. One CASA 212 was lost in 2004, as it made a tricky approach to a land in a high altitude box canyon. But most of the time, the Presidential Air transports get in and out of tight spaces intact, and with hardly any publicity. U.S. military transports (fixed wing and helicopter) are stretched thin in places like Afghanistan, especially now that the Taliban are using more roadside bombs. There are a few other charter airlines helping out, but Blackwater keeps busy by providing smaller, agile, aircraft for the most out-of-the way places. Most of these aircraft are flown by former military pilots.

Czechs Mi-17 Pilots Displeased With Upgraded Equipments

Czechs Mi-17 Pilots Displeased With Upgraded Equipments
(NSI News Source Info) December 24, 2008: In response to a lot of very angry helicopter pilots, the Czech Republic arranged a two week pilot training program in Israel. There, the Czech pilots were shown how to handle flying in hot and dusty conditions (common in the south Afghanistan areas they would soon operate in).
The two week course follows a similar one conducted in France, where pilots trained to deal with mountain flying. The need for special pilot training developed earlier this year, when the Czech Republic, after agreeing to send five badly needed transport helicopters to serve with NATO troops in Afghanistan, found themselves with a pilot mutiny on their hands.
The seventy Czech Air Force helicopter pilots were angry because the Mi-171s appeared unlikely to get needed upgrades to their electronics (NATO grade stuff) and protection (lightweight armor to protect from ground fire).
Four of the pilots refused to sign up for possible duty abroad. Three of those four pilots had already served in the Balkans, and are mainly concerned, like all the other pilots, with the ability of their relatively new Mi-171 helicopters to handle the severe conditions they know they will encounter in the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan. The Czechs have 16 Mi-171s, a new model, which was introduced ten years ago. The Czech's received theirs two years ago, and have been donating their older models (Mi-17s) to Afghanistan (six Mi-17s and six gunship versions, the Mi-24). The Mi-171 helicopter is nicknamed "The Terminator. " It is based on the 1975 Mi-17 design, and is the export version of similar Mi-8, but configured as a gunship and transport. Weighing about 12 tons, and carrying a four ton load, the Mi-171 has a range of 590 kilometers at a cruising speed of 250 kilometers per hour.
There is a crew of three, and as many passengers as can be squeezed in (about 40 people, but usually just 20 or so.) A sling underneath can also carry up to four tons. The crew areas are protected (against bullets and shell fragments) by armor. The Terminator normally carries machine-gun, rockets and bombs, and is also wired for using eight 9M114 (Spiral) air to surface missiles, or air-to-air missiles.
There is a targeting radar up front. Avionics are often Western, which makes it an easier sell to foreign nations. This is what the Czech pilots want on their helicopters, and the government is spending about seven million to upgrade each of the Mi-171s. Russia has already exported several hundred have been. The helicopter is rugged, inexpensive ($4-5 million each for the bare bones model.)

Russian Are Trying To Facelift MiG-29

Russian Are Trying To Facelift MiG-29
(NSI News Source Info) December 24, 2008: Russia is selling Lebanon ten MiG-29 fighters, at a "large discount" (each fighter will cost the Lebanese less than $5 million). This sale is not as big a favor to the Lebanese as it might appear.
Two months ago, all Russian MiG-29s were grounded until it could be determined if some recent crashes, and other problems, were the result of some fundamental design flaw.
There have been several problems with MiG-29s lately, although all aircraft have been returned to flight status. This has not helped sales, as most export customers prefer the larger Su-27 (and its derivatives like the Su-30). The MiG-29 entered Russian service in 1983, as the answer to the American F-16. Some 1,600 MiG-29s have been produced so far, with most (about 900) exported. The biggest customer, India, received its first MiG-29s in 1986, with deliveries continuing into the 1990s. The 22 ton aircraft is, indeed, roughly comparable to the F-16, but it depends a lot on which version of either aircraft you are talking about. Russia is making a lot of money upgrading MiG-29s. Not just adding new electronics, but also making the airframe more robust.
The MiG-29 was originally rated at 2,500 total flight hours. At that time (early 80s), Russia expected MiG-29s to fly about a hundred or so hours a year. India flew them at nearly twice that rate, and now Russia is offering to spiff up the airframe so that the aircraft can fly up to 4,000 hours, with more life extensions upgrades promised.
This won't be easy, as the MiG-29 has a history of unreliability and premature breakdowns (both mechanical and electronic). This is the main reason for grounding all of them after the recent crash. Compared to Western aircraft, like the F-16, the MiG-29 is available for action about two thirds as often. While extending the life of the MiG-29 into the 2030s is theoretically possible, actually doing so will be real breakthrough in Russian aircraft capabilities.
Thus the anxiety over the reliability problems. The Lebanese know all this, but their air force has no jet fighters at all, so ten MiG-29s is a major improvement.

Indian Military Aircraft, UAV Briefs / Indian Military Aircraft Briefs

Indian Military Aircraft, UAV Briefs / Indian Military Aircraft Briefs (NSI News Source Info) December 24, 2008: --Procurement of Aircraft A response to the Request for Proposal (RFP) relating to procurement of 126 aircraft for the Indian Air Force issued on August 27, 2007 has been received from six vendors. The technical evaluation of the proposal is presently underway. This will be followed by field trials and subsequently commercial negotiations culminating in conclusion of the contract after the approval of the competent authority. This information was given by Defence Minister Shri AK Antony in a written reply to Smt Karuna Shukla and Shri Chandra Mani Tripathi in Lok Sabha today. --Manufacturing of Defence Aircraft by HAL HAL has received an order for supply of seven Advanced Light Helicopters to Ecuador during 2008-09. The helicopters will be delivered in three years time. No export order for defence aircraft has been received by HAL during 2007-08. This information was given by Minister of State for Defence Production Rao Inderjit Singh in a written reply to Shri Kishanbhai V Patel and others in Lok Sabha today. --Defence Collaboration for Development of UAV The Government has allowed the Aeronautical Development Establishment to co-opt a partner from the Indian Industry to join in the development and production of the Rs. 1,000 crore indigenous medium altitude long endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) programme. In order to reduce the time for design, development and subsequent Transfer of Technology to the Industry for bulk production of Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAV, Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has been authorized to associate with a Production And Development Partner (PADP) from eligible Indian Industries on a competitive basis. The PADP would work with DRDO during the design and development phase and absorb technologies. They would become the System Integrator and provide product support after induction. DRDO has short listed four Industries Consortia through a transparent process and released Request for Proposal for PADP. This information was given by Defence Minister Shri AK Antony in a written reply to Shri Ravi Prakash Verma and others in Lok Sabha today. --Trainer Aircraft in Air Force All the trainer aircraft in the Indian Air Force have been in service for nearly 25 years except for the recently inducted Hawk Mk-132 aircraft. Proposals are being progressed for procurement of additional Hawk aircraft and Intermediate Jet Trainer as well as for replacement of the existing HPT-32 trainer aircraft to modernize the trainer fleet of the IAF. Several steps have been taken to enhance the quality of training including induction of simulators and improvement of training syllabi in the training establishments so as to enable the trainer pilot to be adequately prepared for flying the aircraft and handle modern on-board cockpit systems with greater proficiency. This information was given by Defence Minister Shri AK Antony in a written reply to Shri Rakesh Singh in Lok Sabha today.

Brazil Orders Penguin Missiles for New Naval Helos / MNOK 140 Penguin Contract with Brazil

Brazil Orders Penguin Missiles for New Naval Helos (NSI News Source Info) December 24, 2008: On Dec. 22, Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace signed a contract with the Brazilian navy for the delivery of Penguin anti-ship missiles and associated equipment valued at appr. MNOK 140.
The missiles will be deployed on the Brazilian Navy's new maritime helicopters. Kongsberg Gruppen (Kongsberg) is a multinational, knowledge-based group with over 5000 employees in more than 25 countries.
The Group delivers high-technology systems to discerning customers engaged in offshore oil and gas production, the merchant marine, and the defence and aerospace industries.
The subsidiary Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace is Norway's premier supplier of defence and aerospace-related systems. The company had operating revenues of NOK 3.3 billion in 2007 and has more than 1800 employees.

Brazil Buys 50 Helicopters, 5 Submarines From France

Brazil Buys 50 Helicopters, 5 Submarines From France (NSI News Source Info) December 23, 2008: Brazil on Tuesday signed contracts to buy 50 military transport helicopters and five submarines from France. The submarine deal involves the purchase of four conventionally powered Scorpene submarines, and the construction of a nuclear-powered submarine to be built with French cooperation.The first of two conventional Scorpene submarines ordered by Malaysia waits for its launching in Cherbourg, Normandy, northwestern France, October 2007. Brazil on Tuesday signed contracts to buy 50 military transport helicopters and five Scorpene submarines from France
The signing ceremony took place in the presence of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Rio de Janeiro. The contracts, whose value was not divulged during the event, involve significant transfers of technology -- a priority for Brazil, which wants to develop an advanced defense industry of its own. As a result, the EC-725 transport helicopters are to be assembled in Brazil. Brazilian engineers will also be solely responsible for building the nuclear engine of the atomic-powered submarine, although the rest of the vessel will rely on French technology.

India & China Joint Military Exercise

India & China Joint Military Exercise
(NSI News Source Info) December 23, 2008: Indian Military Personal in Guwahati Air Force Base after returning from China (Kunming Military Academy, Yunnan, China) after finished joint Military exercise.

Russian Plant Considers Reopening Su-25 Production Line

Russian Plant Considers Reopening Su-25 Production Line (NSI News Source Info) December 23, 2008: The Su-25UBM prototype took of on its maiden flight on December 6, 2008 from the Cubinka airport near Moscow. The Su-25UBM is an upgraded version of the Su-25 combat trainer/ground attack aircraft. The company expects to complete integration test with two prototypes, by the end of next year.

The upgraded aircraft is expected to be operated by the Russian air force as well as foreign air forces currently operating the Su-25SM. Ulan-Ude Aviation and the Russian ministry of trade have recently discussed the possible establishment of serial production of modernized 1980s vintage Su-25UBM trainers and Su-25TM ground attack aircrafts

Chinese Lends Taiwan Billions Places Large Electronics Supply Orders

Chinese Lends Taiwan Billions Places Large Electronics Supply Orders (NSI News Source Info) Beijing - December 23, 2008: Chinese banks will offer nearly 19 billion dollars in financing to Taiwanese-funded firms on the mainland in another sign of warming ties between the longtime rivals, state media reported Sunday. The Industry and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and the Bank of China will each offer 50 billion yuan (7.3 billion dollars) to Taiwanese-funded businesses, Xinhua said, adding that the China Development Bank will also offer 30 billion yuan. It is part of a package of measures agreed during a two-day meeting in Shanghai of the Cross-Straits Economic, Trade and Cultural Forum, Xinhua reported, without giving details of the other measures. The meeting, which finished on Sunday, was attended by Jia Qinglin, the fourth-ranking leader in China's political hierarchy, and Wu Poh-hsiung, chairman of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party, reports said. Jia vowed Saturday that China would come to Taiwan's aid if the impact of the global economic crisis worsened, according to Xinhua. The latest move by China comes after the two sides last week inaugurated direct daily flights and postal and shipping services in a historic move hailed by both sides as cementing a new era in warming ties. Xinhua quoted Wu as urging the forum to "make up for the time lost in the past." He said it would also take place again next year and added that he hoped Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party would be involved next time, according to the report. Relations between China and Taiwan have improved rapidly since the election in March of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who has promised closer ties. His election ended eight years of rule by Chen Shui-bian, whose independence rhetoric inflamed China. Direct transport was suspended after the two sides split in 1949 following a civil war. China still regards Taiwan as a renegade province that must eventually come back into Beijing's political fold, by force if necessary, although Ma's election has cooled the atmosphere dramatically. Chen, who has since been indicted for corruption, had refused the transport links, wary of getting too close to China. But following Ma's election, top officials from both sides met in Beijing in June for the first direct dialogue between the two parties in 10 years, paving the way for a flurry of steps drawing the two sides closer together. China to buy Taiwan flat panels to help economy: reportChinese firms will buy two billion dollars' worth of flat-screen monitors from Taiwanese companies to aid the island's economy in the face of the global downturn, state media reported. Wang Yi, director of the Communist Party's Taiwan Affairs Office, made the announcement at a forum between officials and businessmen from the two sides that ended Sunday, the Xinhua news agency said. Other measures agreed included a Chinese offer for Taiwanese businesses on the mainland of 19 billion dollars in financing over the next three years, Xinhua said. The latest move by Beijing comes after the two sides last week inaugurated direct daily flights and postal and shipping services in a historic move hailed by both sides as cementing a new era in warming ties. Taiwanese flat panel makers reacted positively to the proposed panel deal. "It's our pleasure to see it as the global market is mired in weakening demand amid the current economic woes," said a spokeswoman for AU Optronics, the world's third biggest liquid crystal display (LCD) maker by revenue after South Korea's Samsung and LG. Taiwan's LCD industry has been hard hit by a global economic recession. Weakening consumption in the US and Europe, in particular, has been cited as a major cause of falling sales. AU Optronics posted a 96 percent year-on-year fall in its third quarter net profit to 860 million Taiwan dollars (26.46 million US), the lowest level in six quarters. Rival Chi Mei Optoelectronics even posted 3.97 billion dollars in net loss for the quarter to September, compared with 13.72 billion dollars in net profit a year earlier. But Mega Securities analyst Alex Huang said it is still too early to evaluate exactly how much commercial benefit will come from the China purchase due to a lack of details. "We need to know how long China will do the purchase, one year, two years or three years. We also need to know what sizes of flat panels will be purchased," Huang said. Corwin Lee of the Taipei-based Topology Research Institute said the proposed deal could help Taiwan cushion the negative impacts from waning US consumption. "Through the purchase, Taiwan can work with China to set up sales channels on the mainland," Lee said. Relations between China and Taiwan have improved rapidly since the election in March of Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou, who has promised closer ties. His election ended eight years of rule by Chen Shui-bian, whose pro-independence rhetoric inflamed China.

Japan Asked US Prepare For Nuclear Strike On China: Archives

Japan Asked US Prepare For Nuclear Strike On China: Archives (NSI News Source Info) Tokyo - December 23, 2008: Japan asked the United States in 1965 to be ready to attack China with nuclear weapons if the two Asian powers went to war, newly declassified documents said Monday. Japan, the only nation to have suffered atomic attack, has long campaigned to abolish nuclear weapons -- principles that led former prime minister Eisaku Sato to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974. But the foreign ministry declassified documents showing Sato sought a US nuclear strike on China in the event of a war between the two countries. According to the diplomatic papers, Sato told then US defence secretary Robert McNamara at a 1965 meeting in Washington: "We expect the United States to retaliate immediately using nuclear weapons" in a war. McNamara, best known as an architect of the Vietnam War, was quoted as replying only that the United States had the technical capability to deploy nuclear weapons overseas. Sato also said that he would let the United States use Japanese waters, although not its territory, to transport nuclear weapons in the event of a war between Japan and China. China, then a year away from launching its "Cultural Revolution," was a major cause of concern in the 1960s for World War II rival Japan. Neither Japan or the United States had diplomatic ties with communist China until the 1970s. Asked Monday about Sato's remarks, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, the Japanese government's spokesman, defended the then premier by noting that China had just carried out nuclear tests. "We can reach a conclusion that no nuclear weapons have been brought to Japan," Kawamura, a member of Sato's long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party, told a news conference. Sato's three-point non-nuclear policy -- that Japan will not produce, possess or allow the entry of nuclear weapons -- is "determined and steadfast," Kawamura said. "Washington has understood this," he said. Sato led Japan from 1964 to 1972, making him the country's longest-serving prime minister. The United States dropped atom bombs in 1945 on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 210,000 people. But the United States is now the main ally of officially pacifist Japan and stations more than 40,000 troops on its soil.

Pakistan Military On Red Alert: Report

Pakistan Military On Red Alert: Report (NSI News Source Info) December 23, 2008: Local media in Pakistan has said that the military has been put on high alert yesterday over a possible strike by India, Qatar-based television network Al Jazeera reported on its Web site. India and the United States have blamed Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the Mumbai attacks, which killed at least 180 people, leading to a sharp rise in angry rhetoric between the nuclear-armed countries which have fought three wars. Pakistani media attributed its reports to military sources, who were confirming that all three armed forces including the navy, air force and army were on red alert, according to Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Pakistan. "The Pakistani air force have been seen visibly in a number of locations flying close to the Pakistani-India border in what is being described as an aggressive patrolling mode, following reports that India is planning pre-emptive strikes against locations in Pakistan, " the reporter said. Observers are saying that the Congress party in India has lost a great deal of prestige due to the Mumbai attacks and therefore may try a show of strength in Pakistan, said Hyder. Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency quoted a Pakistan airline official as saying the Pakistani air force conducted an exercise yesterday causing delay of two civilian flights. "Two of our flights were delayed for some time because the PAF was conducting some exercises but now everything is back on normal," said Muhammad Latif, a spokesman for the airlines. The flights were delayed at the airport in the eastern city of Lahore, near the Indian border, Latif said, while dismissing television news channel reports of a high alert at Pakistani airports. "In the current environment, PAF has enhanced its vigilance," chief air force spokesman Air Commodore Humaun Viqar Zephyr told Agence France-Presse. Low-flyingResidents in the capital Islamabad, the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi and the eastern city of Lahore made panicked telephone calls to media outlets to ask about the low-flying fighter jets. In another development yesterday, India’s foreign minister criticized the international reaction to last month's attacks on Mumbai, saying pressure put on Pakistan by world leaders was inadequate. "There has been some effort so far by the international community but this is not enough," Agence France-Presse news agency quoted Mukherjee as saying.Asked whether a military response to the attacks was being considered, Mukherjee said India would "explore all options" to push Pakistan on its promise to crack down on cross-border terrorism.

Hamas Agrees To Hold Tentative Truce

Hamas Agrees To Hold Tentative Truce (NSI News Source Info) ISTANBUL - December 23, 2008: Hamas agreed yesterday to hold fire against Israel for 24 hours, but warned it would resume suicide attacks if the Jewish state launched an offensive against its Gaza stronghold.
Meanwhile, Israeli officials said diplomats have been instructed to highlight the plight of Israelis living under increasing rocket fire from Gaza, in a step aimed at preparing world opinion for stepped-up action by Israel's military.
The Islamists and other armed factions in Gaza have accepted "a calm for a 24-hour period following Egyptian mediation in exchange for the delivery of aid from Egypt," senior Hamas official Ayman Taha told Agence France-Presse.
But Taha warned that Hamas would resume suicide attacks if Israel made good on its threats to unleash a major assault against the Gaza Strip, where the Islamists seized power in June 2007.
"It is our right as an occupied people to defend ourselves from the occupation by all means possible including suicide attacks," he said.
The senior Hamas official also said Palestinian armed group might consider a longer truce if Israel were to lift an embargo on the impoverished territory, beginning with permission to import an aid shipment from Egypt. "Hamas and other factions agreed in order to give a chance to the Egyptian mediation and to show that the problem was always on the Israeli side," Taha told Reuters.
"If a new (truce) offer were made, which met our demands, then we would be willing to study it."
The last time Hamas carried out a suicide attack in Israel was in January 2005. Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor declined to comment on the Hamas statement, saying "we have not received any announcement, neither directly or indirectly, nor via Egypt."
International supportMeanwhile, Israel yesterday kicked off a campaign to muster international support for any major offensive to try to halt rocket fire from the impoverished Palestinian territory. With rocket fire by Gaza militants spiking in recent days and public pressure for action growing, Israeli leaders have held consultations, discussed military contingency plans and are now trying to prepare foreign governments for the possibility that the military could move beyond airstrikes against militants and act with more force, possibly even sending ground forces into the Hamas-controlled territory, reported The Associated Press.
Israeli diplomats are meeting with their counterparts and decision-makers abroad as part of the new effort, spokesman Palmor said. Israel's U.N. envoy was sending a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressing Israel's concerns, he added.
Premier Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak met last week and decided to green-light a Gaza operation, but left the timing vague.

Russia May Place Nuclear Missiles In Neighboring Belarus - Report

Russia May Place Nuclear Missiles In Neighboring Belarus - Report (NSI News Source Info) December 23, 2008: Russia may place nuclear-capable Topol missiles in neighboring Belarus as a response to a controversial U.S. missile shield in eastern Europe, a Russian defense ministry source was quoted as saying Tuesday. "If the United States continues to bring elements of its strategic forces closer to Russia’s borders, including missile-defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, which are aimed at the reduction of our nuclear deterrent, mobile Topol complexes could be placed in Belarus," the source told Interfax news agency. A defence ministry spokesman contacted by AFP declined to comment on the report. Russia has reacted angrily to U.S. plans to place elements of a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, threatening counter-measures including the deployment of Iskander short-range missiles in its western Kaliningrad region. The United States says its missile shield is not a threat to Russia and is instead meant to protect against "rogue states" like Iran. The report came one day after Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko met his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow and reached a deal on the deliveries of Russian gas to Belarus.