Talks to resume on missile defence?
Speaking in Moscow, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said:
“Russia's position, as voiced by President Medvedev, is that if the U.S. goes ahead with its plans and actually installs this radar in Europe, then one of the measures Russia will use to neutralise the inevitable threat to Russia's national security will be the deployment of Iskander missiles.”
The Iskander missiles Russia is proposing would be within striking distance of the planned U.S. sites.
Earlier, U.S. president-elect Barack Obama reportedly told Poland that there was no guarantee the proposed anti-missile shield will be built. The move could indicate that the next American government is preparing to change policy on the controversial defence system.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported on Monday that Obama 'did not make any promises concerning the anti-missile shield' in a telephone conversation with the Polish president Lech Kaczynski.
The source said that officials in Warsaw believe that now the chances of the project going ahead stand at no more than «50 per cent».
Radek Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister, was also quoted as saying that the worsening state of the American economy might force the president-elect to abandon, or at least delay the programme, in favour of domestic priorities.
The news has given a boost to Moscow, which is vehemently opposed to the missile shield. Russia is expected to hold off reaching agreements on defence with the U.S. until the new administration takes office in January.
“We have taken note of the U.S. president-elect Barack Obama's position on these issues. It inspires the hope that we will be able to deal with them more constructively in the coming period,” said Lavrov on Sunday.
Lavrov also said Russia would be ready for extensive consultations on the issue before the end of the year, but that agreements concerning both strategic offensive weapons and missile defense “will surely be negotiated with a new U.S. administration.”
Meanwhile, the current American leadership is urging Russia to continue talks on missile defence.
U.S. State Department spokesman, Robert Wood, said Washington remained “interested in talking to Russia about missile defence and that they have nothing to fear from our missile defence system that we would like to set up in Europe.”
Russia views U.S. plans to install 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic as aggressive. However, the U.S. maintains that the system is aimed at countering future rogue threats from the Middle East and Iran in particular.
The U.S. seems to have changed tack after President Medvedev's address to the Federal Assembly last week after the Russian leader said Moscow would be forced to place missiles in its westernmost Kaliningrad region bordering Poland if the U.S. went ahead with its planned bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.