Obama to face new nuclear arms race in Europe

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Nov. 5, the day after Barack Obama‘s election as US president, made his first state-of-the-nation address since he took office in May—and pledged to deploy a short-range missile system in Russia’s Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad in response to US missile defense plans. He specifically invoked the Georgia conflict in his comments. “The conflict in the Caucasus was used as a pretext to send NATO warships to the Black Sea and then to quickly thrust on Europe the need for deploying the US anti-missile system,” he said. (CIIC, Nov. 5)

The weapon that Medvedev has promised to deploy in Russia’s Baltic enclave is the Iskander-M, a surface-to-surface tactical ballistic missile, which NATO calls the SS-26. It has a range of up to 310 miles, capable of hitting targets in all of Poland and parts of the Czech Republic and Germany from Kaliningrad. The US “missile shield” would employ a battery in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic. Moscow test-fired a new cruise missile version of the Iskander last year, at the same time as it tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-24. (The Guardian, Nov. 7)

See our last posts on Russia, Central Europe and nuclear fear.

  1. Obama vows to go ahead with missile shield: Polish president
    From AFP, Nov. 8:

    WARSAW — US president-elect Barack Obama has told Polish President Lech Kaczynski he will go ahead with plans to build a missile defence shield in eastern Europe despite threats from Russia, Warsaw said on Saturday.

    “Barack Obama has underlined the importance of the strategic partnership between Poland and the United States, he expressed his hope of continuing the political and military cooperation between our two countries.

    “He also said the anti-missile shield project would go ahead,” said a statement issued by Kaczynski after the two men spoke by telephone.

    Warsaw and Washington signed a deal on August 14 to base part of a US missile shield in Poland, amid Moscow’s vehement opposition and mounting East-West tensions over Georgia.

  2. Russia to Obama: rebuild “strategic partnership”
    From BBC News, Nov. 16:

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said he hopes US President-elect Barack Obama will help rebuild the strained relations between their two countries.

    In a speech in Washington, Mr Medvedev said that a new US administration might be able to address what he described as a lack of “necessary mutual trust”.

    He said he wanted to meet Mr Obama soon after he takes office in January.

    The Russian leader also indicated that Russia might accept a compromise over a planned US missile shield in Europe…

    In his speech to the Council on Foreign Relations following the G20 summit on the global economic crisis in Washington, President Medvedev welcomed the election of Mr Obama on 4 November.

    “US-Russian relations lack the necessary mutual trust. We pin such hopes on the arrival of the new US administration,” he explained.

    Mr Medvedev said Russia had a strong “strategic partnership” with China, “a very good, full-fledged, friendly exchange”.

    “Of course I want to have the same kind of relations with the United States,” he went on…

    Medvedev said the first step to restoring relations would be a meeting soon after Mr Obama’s inauguration, “without prevarications or preconditions”.

    The president also said that Russia would not be the first to escalate the situation over the plans for the US missile shield in Europe.

    “We will not do anything until America takes the first step,” he said.

    Mr Medvedev said he had been encouraged by signs that Mr Obama was less enthusiastic about the shield than President George W Bush.

    “[The] first signal we received shows that our partners plan to think about this programme rather than to simply rubber-stamp it,” he said.

    The Russian president also for the first time suggested Moscow might accept changes to the US shield plans, rather than simply their abandonment.

    “We have a chance to solve the problem through either agreeing on a global system or, as a minimum, to find a solution on the existing programmes which would suit the Russian Federation,” he added.