Russia test-fires missile amid tensions over NATO defense shield announcement

File photo of Russia's Topol intercontinental ballistic missile launcher on May 6, 2012.

Story highlights

  • The intercontinental missile was launched Wednesday morning
  • The launch comes after NATO says it now has interim ballistic missile defense capability
  • NATO had asked Russia to participate in the system, but negotiations stalled

Russia test-fired a ballistic missile Wednesday, a move that comes amid tensions about a recent NATO announcement that it placed an interim missile defense shield in Europe.

The intercontinental missile was launched Wednesday morning from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northwestern Russia, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.

"The new intercontinental ballistic missile is intended to strengthen the capabilities of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, including its capabilities for overcoming anti-missile defenses," Defense Ministry spokesman Vadim Koval told RIA Novosti.

The launch comes days after NATO's chief said the alliance now has an interim ballistic missile defense capability in Europe.

Among the interim capabilities are missile interceptors loaded on a U.S. ship in the Mediterranean, the first of four anticipated warships with the defense system. A defense radar is also operational in Turkey. The interim system will link the allies' missile defense systems -- satellites, ships, radars and interceptors -- under NATO control from a U.S. base in Ramstein, Germany.

NATO has asked Russia to participate in the system, but negotiations have been deadlocked over Russia's demand for a legally binding treaty guaranteeing the shield would not be used as a deterrent to Moscow's own systems.

Late last year, then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to withdraw from the START treaty on nuclear weapons reductions and deploy ballistic missiles in its enclave of Kaliningrad on its border with Europe, if NATO moved ahead with the plans for missile defense.

Tensions further increased in December, when Russia's ambassador to NATO suggested that Moscow would close transit routes that send vital supplies to troops in Afghanistan.

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