An X-band radar tracking station.
Russia threatens military response.

The U.S. announced a "landmark" agreement with the Czech Republic to expand its missile defense system into the region.  The deal, announced by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, was signed today in Prague.  Mirek Topolanek, the Czech Prime Minister, described the deal as an example of "our joint desire to protect the free world".

Last year, the U.S. announced its long-awaited missile defense shield -- a.k.a. "Star Wars" -- was functional and ready to defend parts of the nation from attack.  Since then, effort has focused on expanding system capabilities.  The Czech agreement will allow sitting of an advanced tracking radar station in the nation, to allow early detection and interception of missile launches.

The U.S.'s top diplomat called the agreement essential for long-term security. "Ballistic missile proliferation", said Ms. Rice, "is not an imaginary threat".  She pointed to efforts by Iran to build longer-range missiles capable of reaching most of Europe.

Response from other nations was quick to follow.  Russia, which sees its unstoppable arsenal of nuclear weapons as essential to its world standing, went so far as to threaten military action.   A statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry said, “We will be forced to react not with diplomatic, but with military-technical methods".  The statement did not elaborate on what those methods might be.

The U.S. has said the defense system was not aimed at Russia, and in the past has suggested Russian inspectors could visit radar and interceptor sites themselves.  

Poland is the next bone of contention, with the U.S. hoping to site interceptor missiles there.  Talks with the Polish government have stalled, however, and the U.S. has suggested Lithuania may be an alternate site.

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