Bloomberg News

Russia Plans Capability to Strike U.S. Shield, Medvedev Says

November 29, 2011

(Updates with U.S. comment in 11th and 12th paragraphs.)

Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the military to prepare the capability to “destroy” the command structure of the planned U.S. missile-defense system in Europe.

Russia may also station strike missiles on its southern and western flanks, including Iskander rockets in the Kaliningrad exclave between Poland and Lithuania, both members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union, Medvedev said on state television today.

“I have ordered the armed forces to develop measures to ensure, if necessary, that we can destroy the command and control systems” of the U.S. shield, Medvedev said. “These measures are appropriate, effective and low-cost.”

Russia has warned the U.S.-led plan may provoke a new arms race and upset a strategic balance in the region by threatening its nuclear deterrent capability. The U.S. is ignoring Russia’s concerns about positioning parts of the shield in eastern Europe and “accelerating” its development, the president said.

Spain last month became the fourth European nation agreeing to participate directly in the missile defense program, intended to protect against attacks from adversaries such as Iran. President Barack Obama pursued plans for the Europe-wide system in 2009, and the administration has also obtained agreements with Poland, Romania and Turkey to host elements of the shield.

‘Forced to Adopt’

“Russia’s political leadership has repeatedly said that unless we resolve the situation Russia will be forced to adopt a military-technical response,” Dmitry Rogozin, the country’s NATO ambassador, told reporters in Moscow today in comments broadcast on state television. “We can’t afford to barter away our citizens’ security.”

Medvedev renewed a threat to quit a strategic arms- reduction treaty with the U.S. that took effect in 2011 if the two sides can’t reach an agreement on missile defense. The U.S. has refused Russia’s request for legally binding guarantees that it won’t be targeted by the proposed missile shield.

“The West has been listening to Russian concerns, but it’s true that the Russians are disappointed with the dialogue,” Roman Kuzniar, an adviser to Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, said by phone today. “I don’t think they’ll station missiles in Kaliningrad though. I’m more worried about the Russian threats to withdraw from the arms control treaty.”

Worsening Atmosphere

The warnings reflects a worsening atmosphere between the U.S. and Russia, said Lilit Gevorgyan, a London-based analyst at IHS Global Insight. Russia holds parliamentary elections in December, followed by a presidential vote in March. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, known for his anti-U.S. rhetoric, has said he intends to return as president next year, swapping places with Medvedev.

“This is a Cold War-style issue that can be damaging for Russia-U.S. relations,” Gevorgyan said by phone. “Unfortunately, it’s going to stay for a while and during an election period it is an issue that can attract a lot of attention.”

At the U.S. State Department in Washington, spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. has been “open and transparent” with Russia about the missile system.

“We’ve been clear all along that this system is not directed against Russia,” Toner said at a briefing. “We’re going to try to continue to engage with them constructively on missile defense.”

‘Narrow’ Questions

Issues of strategic national security shouldn’t be “packaged” together with “narrow pre-election questions,” Rogozin said. Medvedev’s statement is intended to bring the U.S. and NATO back to the negotiating table, he said.

Russia and the U.S. launched a “reset” of their relationship in 2009 after Obama came to office, yielding an agreement on the strategic arms-reduction treaty that took effect in 2011. Russia also agreed to the transit of NATO supplies through its territory to Afghanistan and backed sanctions against Iran.

In another sign of tension, the U.S. yesterday announced that it will no longer share data with Russia on conventional weapons, in what the State Department said was an expression of frustration over Russia’s refusal to comply with the data- sharing and inspection provisions in the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty.

Still, Russia and the U.S. are not likely to engage in any serious confrontation, said Alexander Sharavin, director of the Institute for Political Military Analysis.

“These steps are mainly for propaganda purposes,” he said of the U.S. missile shield plan and the Russian counter- measures. ‘Neither Russia nor the U.S. have real capabilities in the anti-missile sphere.’’

--With assistance from Katya Andrusz in Warsaw. Editors: Paul Abelsky, Balazs Penz, Andrew Langley, Steven Komarow.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ilya Arkhipov in Moscow at iarkhipov@bloomberg.net; Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brad Cook at bcook7@bloomberg.net


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