Russia on Tuesday renewed a threat to field short-range Iskander ballistic missiles in an exclave that borders NATO territory against a backdrop of continuing disagreements over a developing missile shield in Europe, RIA Novosti reported (see GSN, April 24).
The Kaliningrad shares a border with NATO members Poland and Lithuania. Warsaw has agreed to allow U.S. next-generation Standard Missile 3 interceptors on its territory, in accordance with the Obama administration's "phased adaptive approach." The 24 interceptors are expected to arrive no later than 2018 (see GSN, Jan. 12).
Antimissile systems due to be deployed in Poland are not a threat to Russia's nuclear weapons, General Staff chief Gen. Nikolai Makarov said. "However, if it is modernized … it could affect our nuclear capability and in that case a political decision may be made to deploy Iskander systems in the Kaliningrad region."
"But that will be a political decision. So far there is no such need," he emphasized in an interview with Russia Today television (RIA Novosti I, April 24).
Moscow suspects the U.S.-NATO framework for establishing a ballistic missile shield in Europe will be secretly aimed at undermining Russia's long-range nuclear forces. Brussels and Washington maintain the shield is aimed at thwarting a possible medium-range missile strike from the Middle East. The disagreement has been a primary cause of the sides' failure to date to agree on potential collaborative measures for European missile defense.
Makarov is slated to participate in a coming meeting of General Staff heads to nations on the NATO-Russia Council that will focus on continuing differences over missile defense and areas for feasible collaboration, ITAR-Tass reported.
A source in Brussels told the Russian news agency, "This meeting will summarize the results of the implementation of the military cooperation plan for 2011 and discuss the plan for 2012" (ITAR-Tass, April 25).
Elsewhere, Dmitry Rogozin has been removed from his position as special envoy for missile shield discussions with NATO, RIA Novosti reported. The act was one of President Dmitry Medvedev's final decisions before he leaves office next month.
Rogozin previously served as Russian ambasador to NATO before becoming deputy prime minister late last year. He willl continue to lead a Kremlin task force that is studying areas for possible antimissile collaboration with the alliance, according to the Russian government (RIA Novosti II, April 25).