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Russia Vows to Neutralize NATO Missile Shield if Deal is Not Struck

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday said his nation will work to neutralize any advantages gained by NATO through establishment of a European missile shield if the two military powers fail to reach a compromise on the issue, RIA Novosti reported (see GSN, Jan. 31).

"This does not mean the beginning of confrontation, but it means that we cannot treat their plans indifferently since it concerns our strategic interests," Medvedev said regarding updates to Russia's own antimissile complex.

NATO is pursuing a missile defense system that would focus on enhancing and coordinating individual member states' antimissile programs. At the center of the effort is a U.S. plan to through 2020 deploy increasingly advanced missile interceptors at bases in Poland and Romania and on battleships home ported in Spain. The stated purpose of the missile shield is to protect Europe against a feared ballistic missile attack from the Middle East. Moscow, however, continues to suspect the interceptors would secretly be aimed at its long-range nuclear missiles.

The sides in November 2010 agreed to pursue avenues for missile defense collaboration, but talks since then have failed to overcome issues such as Russia's demands for a binding pledge that it would not be the target of the Europe-based interceptors.

Last year, Medvedev warned that failure to reach accord on the matter could lead Russia to deploy antimissile systems in the Kaliningrad territory that could be supplemented with short-range Iskander missiles. He also warned the Kremlin could end its participation in the New START nuclear arms control accord with the United States.

"We will do everything in the direction voiced by me earlier, with the only exception being if our partners drop their plans or propose to us a scheme for participating in the joint development of missile defenses," Medvedev vowed.

In accordance with Russia's efforts to enhance its own antimissile capabilities, long-range S-400 Triumph air defenses arrived at the Western Military District on Tuesday and are scheduled to begin operating in March (see GSN, Feb 15; RIA Novosti, Feb. 21).

The Russian president told his nuclear force commanders it is essential the effectiveness of Russia's strategic deterrent be assured, ITAR-Tass reported.

"When [U.S. President] Obama and I signed [New START], we proceeded from the assumption that we have certain parity. It has been a more or less parity like situation, which creates or maintains a strategic balance model," Medvedev said. "The missile defense ... is in fact part and parcel of the strategic missile force, but in a different disguise. Also, it is an attempt to upset that balance."

Medvedev calculated that as soon as 2018, Moscow would have to make some key decisions in order to neutralize any antimissile advantages established by the United States and NATO.

The Obama administration's "phased adaptive approach" for European missile defense foresees between 2018 and 2020 deploying missile interceptors in Europe that are capable of countering intermediate-range missiles and potentially ICBMs.

"If they give up these plans by that time, and in a number of cases our partners demonstrated flexibility on the issue, we shall demonstrate the same flexibility, too," Medvedev said (ITAR-Tass, Feb. 21).

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