Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said today his nation would deploy short-range, conventionally armed missiles near Poland as a response to the planned fielding of U.S. missile defense systems in Europe, the New York Times reported (see GSN, Nov. 3).
“We earlier planned to take three missile regiments within the missile division stationed in Kozelsk off combat duty and discontinue the division itself by 2010. I have decided to refrain from these plans,” Medvedev said in his first state of the nation speech.
“The Iskander missile system will be deployed in Kaliningrad region to neutralize, when necessary, the missile shield,” he added. The Iskander carries conventional warheads and can fly roughly 250 miles, news reports indicate.
The Kaliningrad Oblast is a small stretch of land between Lithuania and Poland, former Soviet satellites that have since joined NATO.
Moscow also plans to deploy “radioelectronic equipment” in the area to “jam objects of the U.S. missile defense system,” according to Medvedev.
“These are forced measures,” he said. “We have told our partners more than once that we want positive cooperation, we want to act together to combat common threats, that we want to act together. But they, unfortunately, don’t want to listen to us.”
Russian leaders say the planned U.S. installations, a radar base in the Czech Republic and a missile interceptor site in Poland, are a threat to their nation’s strategic security. U.S. officials argue that the system would be developed to counter threats from Iran and would pose little defense against Russia’s immense nuclear arsenal (see GSN, Oct. 29; Barry/Kishkovsky, New York Times, Nov. 5).
Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers from the British Labor Party are demanding a public debate on the U.S. missile shield initiative, the London Guardian reported yesterday.
The United States plans to use an early warning radar at the British Fylingdales air station and the electronic monitoring site at Menwith Hill as part of its missile defense program.
The system has not been proven effective and could produce a news arms race and trouble with other nations, critics argue.
“Driving Europe into this throwback from the 1980s will give no security from the actual threats we face. It will further worsen tensions with Russia, leading to greater risk for us all,” said Kate Hudson, head of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
“The government has repeatedly tried to avoid debate on this, announcing the U.S. can use the Menwith Hill base for missile defense the day before a parliamentary recess. These are major long-term strategic decisions which will affect our security for decades,” she added (Matthew Taylor, London Guardian, Nov. 4).
Polish lawmakers on Friday are set to receive a government briefing on the U.S. plans to deploy 10 missile interceptors in the nation, the Poland Business Newswire reported. The government in Warsaw has yet to ratify a deal signed in August, but construction is set to begin next year.
“We will present information on the U.S. missile defense plans on Friday in Sejm (lower house of parliament)," said Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said. "As you know, the issue is very interesting for the opposition. The leftist opposition is skeptical and doesn't want hasty ratification (of the Polish-U.S. agreement on the shield), while the rightist opposition would like swift ratification.
“The government believes that what counts is not the speed, but the quality of the deal with the US on the status of American forces in Poland and the framework agreement on cooperation with our industries and academics," he added. "We want the fulfillment of American obligations regarding strategic dialogue and cooperation with our army” (Polish Business Newswire, Nov. 4).