Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned on Wednesday a continuing dispute over Obama administration plans to deploy U.S. missile interceptors in Europe could become critical closer to 2020, ITAR-Tass reported (see GSN, Jan. 24).
Washington insists the interceptors are intended to counter an evolving Iranian ballistic missile threat, but Moscow suspects the weapons would also secretly be aimed at undermining its own strategic deterrent.
"This problem remains long-term and most probably it will worsen in 2018-2020," Medvedev said to a group of journalism professors in Moscow.
The third phase of the Obama administration's "phased adaptive approach" for missile defense in Europe calls for deployment around 2018 of Standard Missile 3 Block 2A interceptors able "to counter short, medium-, and intermediate-range missile threats." The fourth phase around 2020 would see fielding of more advanced SM-3 Block 2B missiles capable of thwarting "the potential future ICBM threat to the United States."
The Russian president pledged the Kremlin would "not stay indifferent to how our nuclear potential is reacted to." He did note, though, that U.S.-Russian relations are presently robust.
The former Cold War rivals for more than a year have engaged in discussions on the potential for missile defense cooperation in Europe. Disagreements on a number of matters, particularly Moscow's insistence on receiving a binding pledge that it would not be the target of the U.S. defenses, have stymied prospects for reaching a compromise.
Medvedev previously warned Russia could field short-range missiles and an air defense system in a region that borders NATO states if a deal is not reached with the United States (ITAR-Tass, Jan. 25).