Outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday said the nation's armed forces must move to respond to a U.S. effort to deploy missile interceptors in Europe, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, March 19).
Moscow "isn't shutting the door to dialogue" with Washington but it has become necessary to prepare a military response to U.S.-led NATO efforts to establish a ballistic missile shield, Medvedev said to senior Russian officers.
The Obama administration is implementing a "phased adaptive approach" that involves the fielding between now and 2020 of increasingly sophisticated sea- and land-based missile interceptors around Europe. That plan forms the core of a wider NATO effort to link up and augment individual member nations' antimissile capabilities. Washington and Brussels have repeatedly said the purpose of the missile shield is to defeat a feared ballistic missile attack from the Middle East. They have sought to persuade Russia to join their effort.
The Kremlin, though, suspects future-generation U.S. interceptors would be aimed at undermining its long-range nuclear deterrent and has demanded a legally binding guarantee that this would not be the case. Washington has repeatedly refused this request even as it has signed deals with Poland, Romania, and Spain to host interceptors and established a long-range radar base in Turkey.
"By 2017-2018 we must be fully prepared, fully armed," Medvedev said in broadcast remarks.
That time frame corresponds to the third phase of the Obama administration's missile shield plan, which calls for deployment in Europe of interceptors capable of eliminating short-, medium- and intermediate-range missiles.
Medvedev previously threatened to deploy air defenses and short-range missiles in Russia's Kaliningrad region if no compromise is reached with the United States.
"Even though the talks are ongoing, we must get ready for a serious rearming of the armed forces so that we could be in a due shape and capable to respond to the missile defense in Europe," Medvedev said (Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, March 20).
Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said on Tuesday that the Western military bloc's antimissile plans jeopardize continued military parity between the former Cold War rivals, ITAR-Tass reported.
"Deploying elements of the global missile defense system considerably disrupts the established balance of forces and strategic stability in general," the defense chief said to ministry personnel.
"The tendency towards an escalation of tensions along the perimeter of our borders increases the risk of Russia's being involved in various armed conflicts," Serdyukov said (ITAR-Tass I, March 20).
The Russian military has started putting in place "military-technical measures" authorized by Medvedev as a response to the U.S.-NATO missile shield, ITAR-Tass quoted him as saying.
Serdyukov, though, emphasized that "we are ready to continue the dialogue." Russia intends to hold a multinational antimissile forum on May 3-4 to address its stand on the matter, he said (ITAR-Tass II, March 20).
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Monday said Russia's incoming president, Vladimir Putin, might not be prepared to take part in a May summit with NATO heads of state in Chicago as he will only have only retaken the job weeks earlier, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported. Putin, Russia's current prime minister, was recently elected to a third term as president.
"I think a possible NATO-Russia summit will very much depend on progress on missile defense, but maybe also on the whole calendar," Rasmussen told DPA. "Their new president will not be inaugurated until the beginning of May, so Russia has a very busy political calendar and that may also have an impact on this whole process, including the possibility of having a NATO-Russia meeting in Chicago."
The high-profile NATO meeting is slated to take place from May 20-21 (Deutsche Presse-Agentur/Europe Online Magazine, March 19).
Meanwhile, Serdyukov announced that trials have begun for a new advanced radar unit established in Irkutsk, ITAR-Tass reported.
The long-range Voronezh-class radar can simultaneously track about 500 targets at ranges of up to 3,725 miles, according to previous reports (ITAR-Tass III, March 20).
Outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday said the nation's armed forces must move to respond to a U.S. effort to deploy missile interceptors in Europe, the Associated Press reported.