Russia Repeats Missile Warnings Ahead of Bush-Medvedev Meeting
Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said Tuesday that the U.S. plans for missile defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic leave Russia with no option but to take steps to neutralize the emerging threat near its western borders.
The day after the U.S. presidential election, Medvedev in a state of the nation address announced plans to deploy Iskander short-range missiles in the Kaliningrad region, the exclave of Russian territory between Lithuania and Poland, in response to the U.S. missile defense plans.
But the Kremlin went on to say the Iskanders would only be deployed if the U.S. goes ahead with its plans.
Boris Gryzlov, speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, reiterated this on Wednesday, saying the missiles would not be placed in Kaliningrad before construction of the planned facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic begins.
Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of general staff, said the missile systems would be put in place “as soon as the final decision is made,” and Gen. Sergei Bogatinov, commander of the Russian Missile and Artillery Forces, said he saw no reason for delays in deploying them.
Although Iskanders in Kaliningrad would be bring the planned U.S. sites within range, some military experts are suggesting even more robust measures.
Gen. Piotr Deinekin, former commander of the Russian Air Force, suggested the deployment of X-55 cruise missiles, mounted on Tu-95 strategic bombers. The missiles are a powerful first strike weapon and were capable, he said, of hitting targets as small as a mobile phone.
Adding to the rhetoric, Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, said forces under his command were capable of protecting Russia from “large-scale aggression.”
Russia has consistently dismissed U.S. assurances that the missile defense system is designed not to target Russia or weaken its nuclear deterrent but to protect against future missile attack from hostile regimes like Iran.
Earlier this month, Washington sent Russia new proposals for joint cooperation in the missile defense field, but the Kremlin dismissed them as insufficient. More talks are due in December.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed U.S. offers of political guarantees on missile defense.
“We have been receiving political guarantees on NATO non-expansion, and on the military deployment and military bases in new NATO members,” he said. “These political guarantees did not work at all.”
Some politicians voiced hope that the next administration in Washington may reconsider the missile defense proposal.
Yuly Kvitsinsky, deputy head of the State Duma’s international relations committee, said President-elect Obama may once in office review the plans, which Kvitsinsky described as being a Republican notion.
But Vladimir Yevseyev of the Moscow-based Center for International Security said while the plans may be delayed or partially reviewed, it was over-optimistic to expect any radical change.
Medvedev and Bush are expected to meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima this weekend. Missile defense and the situation in Georgia would be on the agenda for the bilateral meeting, according to national security council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.