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Russia Offers Missile Crisis As Welcoming Gambit To Next US Admin

Russian officials have announced they are prepared to deploy their own short-range missiles in Kaliningrad.
by Martin Sieff
Washington (UPI) Nov 6, 2008
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has just been handed his own version of the Cuban Missile Crisis -- courtesy of incumbent President George W. Bush.

Bush's policy of building a ballistic missile defense base in Poland to guard against the threat of Iran firing nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles against the United States has put Washington on a collision course with Moscow.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Wednesday welcomed Obama's historic and sweeping presidential election victory not with a handshake but with a threat. He told the Russian people in his first state of the nation address that Russia would position short-range Iskander missile systems in its western enclave of Kaliningrad "to neutralize, if necessary, the anti-ballistic missile system in Europe," RIA Novosti reported.

The threat should not have come as any surprise to U.S. policymakers, both Republican and Democrat. Back in August, right after the Polish government agreed to let the base with 10 Ground-based Mid-course interceptors be built on its territory, within days Russian officials announced they were prepared to deploy their own short-range missiles in Kaliningrad -- and probably in the former Soviet republic of Belarus, too -- to target the BMD-GBI base in Poland.

As we have repeatedly documented in this column over the past year, the immediate Russian response was always likely to be the deployment of a much larger number of Iskander short-range, solid fuel, quasi-ballistic missiles in the Russian and former Soviet enclave of Kaliningrad on Poland's northeast border.

The Poles knew this would likely be the Kremlin's reaction. That's why the agreement will include a U.S. commitment to deploy at least one and probably more batteries of Patriot PAC-3 anti-ballistic missile interceptors on Polish territory.

This standoff will force Obama and his national security team to make tough decisions right after they take office. If they push ahead with building the BMD base, they can be assured that the Iskanders will be deployed against it and other Polish and NATO targets very quickly. U.S.-Russian relations will then be in an even more parlous state than they are now.

But if the Obama administration decides to scrap the BMD base -- which seems likely, given the opposition of so many Democrats in Congress and in Democrat-leaning think tanks toward it -- then Iran will potentially have far greater leverage against the United States if -- or when -- it finally develops its own intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads to put on them.

The 10 GBIs would be deployed to shoot down fast, high-flying intercontinental ballistic missiles that Iran or some other Middle Eastern "rogue state" might launch against the cities of Western Europe or the Eastern seaboard of the United States. The Bush administration has approved the supply of Patriot PAC-3 missile interceptor batteries to Poland to shoot down much more numerous but somewhat slower and far lower-flying short-range ballistic missiles such as the Iskander. The Patriots are good, but ballistic-missile interception is like swinging at a baseball -- no one ever scores a perfect 1,000.

The GBIs would be the best and possibly only chance to prevent New York, Washington, Boston or Philadelphia from being incinerated by a long-range Iranian ICBM fired on a great circle route across Europe and the Atlantic Ocean, if either Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or his successors got their hands on those kinds of weapons and were reckless enough to use them.

An ideal solution would be if Obama could broker a deal with Moscow whereby the Russians would actually move vigorously to strip the Iranians of the nuclear and missile technology they are acquiring. But since Russia itself is Iran's main supplier of nuclear technology and of advanced anti-aircraft defense systems to protect Iranian strategic sites, this does not seem likely.

In any case, Medvedev's tough talk Wednesday signals that as soon as Obama takes office, he may have to face a high noon confrontation between Moscow and Washington in Central Europe over ballistic missile defense.

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NATO voices 'serious worries' about Russian missile plans
Brussels (AFP) Nov 5, 2008
NATO has "serious worries" about the compatibility of Russian plans to deploy missiles in a western Russian enclave with arm control "arrangements," an alliance spokesman said Wednesday.







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