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Vatican newspaper: U.S. missile shield could threaten future disarmament

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VATICAN CITY - The Vatican newspaper said the U.S. plan to install a missile shield in Eastern Europe could seriously threaten U.S.-Russian relations and the future of global disarmament.

Russia has strongly objected to the plan, saying placement of the missile shield would endanger its own security.

The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, ran a front-page story about the dispute under the headline: "Multilateralism and disarmament at risk." The article appeared Aug. 21, the day after the United States and Poland signed an agreement to place 10 interceptor missiles in Polish territory.

"The signing of the missile shield agreement ... has produced a dynamic that seems able to threaten multilateralism and the process of international disarmament," the newspaper said.

It warned of "a new worsening of relations between East and West, bringing back an atmosphere that seemed to have been overcome."

In July, the Czech Republic agreed to station a U.S. radar system, another part of the missile shield, on its territory. The United States has said the shield is not aimed at Russia but at potential rogue states such as Iran.

The Vatican newspaper said the deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations and the prospect of another arms race comes at a time when global spending on armaments is already increasing. It cited recent studies showing that world military spending grew 45 percent from 1997-2007.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which monitors military spending, in 2007 more than $1.3 trillion was spent on arms and other military expenditures - about $202 for every person on earth.

It said the United States is by far the leader in military spending, with $547 billion spent in 2007, about 42 percent of the total. Russia had an estimated $35 billion in military spending in 2007, an increase of 13 percent from 2006, according to the SIPRI report.

The Vatican's representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, said Aug. 22 that the new U.S.-Russian tensions underscore the failure of recent efforts at disarmament, especially nuclear disarmament.

"It shows there has been a certain reluctance to face the fundamental question of nuclear disarmament in a decisive manner," he told Vatican Radio.

"To place missiles in Poland and on the other hand the Russian response of wanting to bring missiles near the territory of the European Union make this tension grow," he said.

The situation presents "new risks for the human family," he said.

Archbishop Tomasi also recalled that next year marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which he said offers a lesson for humanity.

"Throughout history, walls have not been useful and they will not be useful in this moment, either," he said.

"There are walls that are being constructed between Palestinians and Israelis, between Americans and Mexicans. This is contrary to the vision of solidarity and communion, of participation, which arises from the fact that we are all children of God," he said.

The Catholic Voice

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