Medvedev threatens missile deployment on EU borders
Russia on Wednesday warned the West that it could deploy missiles on the EU's borders to strike against missile defence facilities that the United States plans to install in eastern Europe.
President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia was prepared to deploy Iskander missiles, which officials said have a range of up to 500 kilometres (310 miles), in the Kaliningrad exclave that borders EU members Poland and Lithuania.
If measures were not taken to limit the plans, "the Russian Federation will deploy in the west and the south of the country modern weapons systems that could be used to destroy the European component of the US missile defence."
"One of these steps could be the deployment of the Iskander missile systems in Kaliningrad," Medvedev said in a televised address.
Romania and Poland have agreed to host part of a revamped US missile shield which Washington said is aimed solely at rogue states like Iran but Moscow believes would also target its soil.
The issue has repeatedly been an obstacle to a "reset" in relations between Russia and the United States and Medvedev said it could impact disarmament cooperation with its ex Cold War foe.
"If the situation does not develop well, then Russia reserves the right to halt further steps in disarmament and the corresponding weapons controls," he said, speaking from his residence in front of the Russian flag.
He also said the problem could lead to Russia quitting the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) for nuclear arms cuts with the United States that Medvedev signed with President Barack Obama in April 2010.
"There could be a basis for our exit from START. This is allowed under the sense of the treaty itself," he added.
Medvedev's hawkish comments came after he met Obama for talks on the sidelines of a summit in Hawaii earlier this month.
They also coincide with the run-up to legislative elections on December 4, where Medvedev is leading the list of the ruling United Russia party amid an apparent increase of nationalist sentiment in the country.
The Interfax news agency said that the range of the Iskander missiles is 280 kilometres but Russian officials have said in the past they could hit targets at a distance of up to 500 kilometres.
Kaliningrad is part of the former German East Prussia region that was annexed by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II and remains one of Moscow's prime territorial strategic assets.
© 2011 AFP