Russia Appears to Back Off East European Missile Threat

(Jan. 28) -Russian officials have toned down their threats to deploy Iskander missiles near Poland (Evgeny Stetsko/Getty Images).
(Jan. 28) -Russian officials have toned down their threats to deploy Iskander missiles near Poland (Evgeny Stetsko/Getty Images).

Russia might have dropped plans to deploy short-range ballistic missiles near its border with Poland, apparently a conciliatory move toward new U.S. President Barack Obama, Agence France-Presse reported today (see GSN, Jan. 16).

Moscow announced last year that it would field the missiles in Kaliningrad, in reaction to Bush administration efforts to deploy missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. Obama has not revealed whether he intends to continue those efforts, but he has hinted that he would seek better testing for U.S. missile defenses before deploying the systems.

One Russian official said the halt to the deployment plans reflected Obama's cautious approach.

"The realization of these plans has been suspended in connection with the fact that the new American administration is not speeding up its plans," an official from Russia's military headquarters said today. "Russia does not need to place Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad if a U.S. missile defense shield is not going to put fear into Eastern Europe" (Stuart Williams, Agence France-Presse I/Google News, Jan. 28).

Other officials, however, said the report had been "premature," Voice of America reported. Russia never made concrete efforts to deploy the missiles, according to Defense Ministry officials, so there could be no way to suspend them (Voice of America, Jan. 28).

The original announcement drew tentative NATO praise, Reuters reported.

"The earlier Russian announcement that they were going to deploy missiles into Kaliningrad and point them at NATO allies was unwelcome. If that decision has now been rescinded, it is a good step," said NATO spokesman James Appathurai (David Brunnstrom, Reuters I, Jan. 28).

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday that he planned to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton soon in advance of a possible meeting of presidents in London in early April. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev spoke by phone Monday and agreed to try to improve the nations' relationship (Agence France-Presse II/EasyBourse.com, Jan. 27).

"President Obama and President Medvedev spoke about the importance of stopping the drift in U.S.-Russia relations and building a serious agenda for their bilateral relationship," said a White House statement. "The presidents agreed that, as they were both new leaders from a post-Cold War generation, they have a unique opportunity to establish a fundamentally different kind of relationship between the two countries" (Ross Colvin, Reuters II, Jan. 27).

January 28, 2009
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Russia might have dropped plans to deploy short-range ballistic missiles near its border with Poland, apparently a conciliatory move toward new U.S. President Barack Obama, Agence France-Presse reported today (see GSN, Jan. 16).

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