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Russian Iskander Missiles Ready To Roll

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Martin Sieff
Washington (UPI) Nov 24, 2008
The Russian armed forces are prepared to deploy their short-range Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad province to target the proposed U.S. ballistic missile defense base to be built in Poland, right now, or whenever needed, Russia's top general warned Wednesday.

"As soon as the final decision is made by our supreme commander-in-chief, these missile systems will be deployed, wherever it is ordered," four-star General of the Army Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the Russian General Staff, told a Moscow news conference Wednesday, RIA Novosti reported.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned in his first state of the union address to the Russian people on Nov. 5 that he was prepared to order the highly accurate, low-flying and fast quasi-ballistic Iskander-M missiles (NATO designation SS-26 Stone) to be deployed in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which borders Poland on the Baltic Sea coast, to "neutralize if necessary" the base for Ground-based Mid-course Interceptors that the United States is building in Poland.

The Bush administration has said the GBIs are necessary to protect the United States and Western Europe from the threat of a future possible attack by nuclear-armed Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles. But Russia claims the GBIs really would be targeted on Russian survivable second-strike nuclear missile deterrent weapons.

RIA Novosti said the latest Iskanders had a range of more than 300 miles, which would give them the capability to hit the GBI base location from within the Kaliningrad region.

Medvedev and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have shrugged off Bush administration efforts to offer proposals to address the Kremlin's concerns. But since the election of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on Nov. 4, the Russians have been sending signals that they would be willing to open a new round of negotiations with the U.S. leader after he takes office in two months' time.

On Wednesday, Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, reiterated that Moscow would not field its Iskander-Ms in Kaliningrad unless the United States began putting GBIs into the Polish base, which has yet to be completed, RIA Novosti reported.

"This (Iskander deployment) is a response measure. The deployment will not start before the construction of a launcher in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic starts. Our neighbors in Europe should realize that," Gryzlov stated.

Gryzlov stated that he held talks Tuesday with Miloslav Vlcek, the speaker of the lower house of the Czech Parliament. The Czech government has agreed to host a U.S. radar base necessary to guide the GBI interceptors to their targets. But Gryzlov said Vlcek had agreed to put back any parliamentary debate in Prague on approving the radar base construction "at least until late January." Gryzlov commented that this postponement "inspires a certain optimism," RIA Novosti said.

On Friday, Vlcek expressed public skepticism that the BMD base in Poland will ever be built after Obama takes office in Washington.

The Russian news agency acknowledged that the relatively new Iskander missiles have yet to be operationally deployed and cleared for operational use, despite some successful test firings. It noted that some analysts have expressed doubts whether Russia can get five missile brigades armed with Iskanders up and running in Kaliningrad over the next four or five years because of production capacity problems in the Russian military-industrial complex.

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Russian president sees Obama flexible on missile defense
Lima (AFP) Nov 23, 2008
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Sunday he believed US president-elect Barack Obama could change Washington's position over a hotly contested plan for a US missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.

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