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Russian President Issues Missile Threat

(Nov. 23) - An Iskander missile launcher, shown on display during a 2008 military parade rehearsal in Moscow. Russia could field Iskander systems aimed at U.S. antimissile sites in Europe should a missile defense dispute between Washington and Moscow go unresolved, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko). (Nov. 23) - An Iskander missile launcher, shown on display during a 2008 military parade rehearsal in Moscow. Russia could field Iskander systems aimed at U.S. antimissile sites in Europe should a missile defense dispute between Washington and Moscow go unresolved, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday said his nation would target U.S. antimissile installations if the two nations cannot come to accord on the Obama administration's missile defense plans, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Nov. 22).

The United States and NATO for the last year have sought to reach agreement with Moscow for collaboration on a developing Europe-based missile shield. Several rounds of negotiations have failed to produce a deal, with the sides remaining at odds over the set-up of a cooperative defense system.

The Kremlin has also demanded a legally binding pledge that the NATO defenses would not be aimed at Russian nuclear forces. The alliance has rebuffed the request but says the missile shield is intended to counter ballistic missile strikes from the Middle East, notably Iran.

Medvedev said that should the dispute continue Russia was prepared to deploy Iskander missiles in the far-western Kaliningrad region that could be fired at U.S. missile defense facilities in Europe. Additional missiles could be placed in the west and south of Russia, he added.

New long-range nuclear missiles would be equipped with technology enabling them to defeat antimissile systems, Medvedev said.

The president also said that Russia could suspend participation in the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the United States and curb additional arms control discussions with Washington.

"The United States and its NATO partners as of now aren't going to take our concerns about the European missile defense into account," according to Medvedev.

The comments echo statements made previously by Medvedev and other Russian leaders (Associated Press I/USA Today, Nov. 23).

"We won’t agree to take part in a program that may weaken our potential of deterrence in a relatively short time — five or six or eight years,” the Washington Post quoted Medvedev as saying in the televised speech (Will Englund, Washington Post, Nov. 23).

The Obama administration responded on Wednesday that it would not revise or constrain its missile shield efforts, which focus on deploying increasingly advanced land- and sea-based interceptors around Europe in coming years, AP reported.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said Washington has not tried to mislead Moscow about its intentions and that work on the antimissile system is progressing strongly (Associated Press II/San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 23).

"Its implementation is going well and we see no basis for threats to withdraw from it," Fox News quoted the National Security Council official as saying in a statement. "We continue to believe that cooperation with Russia on missile defense can enhance the security of the United States, our allies in Europe and Russia, and we will continue to work with Russia to define the parameters of possible cooperation. However, in pursuing this cooperation, we will not in any way limit or change our deployment plans in Europe."

The Defense Department reaffirmed its stand that Russia is not the target of U.S. missile defense activities.

The program "is focused on addressing the growing missile threat from Iran," spokesman Capt. John Kirby said to Fox News.

"We have been addressing Russia's concerns through an intensive dialogue and detailed briefings at senior levels. The U.S. and NATO have welcomed Russia to participate in missile defense cooperation. This is the best way for Russia to receive transparency and assurances that missile defense is not a threat," he said (Fox News, Nov. 23).

Meanwhile, Russia is preparing a major enhancement to the missile early warning technology operated by the military's aerospace defense forces, Interfax reported on Tuesday.

"The decision has been made to form a single space-based missile attack early warning and combat-control system -- EKS -- in order to augment the capabilities of the space-based echelon of the missile attack early warning system and to enhance the reliability and readiness of the combat control system in the Russian strategic nuclear forces," a Defense Ministry source said. "It will encompass new-generation spacecraft and upgraded command posts. In experts' estimates, after the EKS goes online the Russian missile attack early warning system will be able to detect launches of any ballistic missiles, wherever they are fired from."

The radar web encompasses assets deployed in space and on Earth, according to the official.

"The capabilities of the space-based echelon are limited today. Its orbital force in its current shape controls only the missile-dangerous area in the continental part of the United States," he said.

Meanwhile, seven ground radar units are using various systems able to identify ballistic missiles at ranges between 2,485 and 3,728 miles, the source noted. Additional radar installations are being built (Interfax, Nov. 22).

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