Russia's New Threats May Endanger Obama's 'Reset' Policy

By Weir, Fred | The Christian Science Monitor, November 27, 2011 | Go to article overview

Russia's New Threats May Endanger Obama's 'Reset' Policy


Weir, Fred, The Christian Science Monitor


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said this week that he has ordered the Russian military to immediately take measures to counter US plans to install advanced radars and anti-missile interceptors in European countries.

Russia will target US anti-missile sites in Europe, deploy advanced radars to monitor all missile launches from NATO territory, and might even withdraw from the New START arms reduction treaty that came into force this year unless Washington takes dramatic steps to allay Moscow's concerns over plans to deploy major elements of an anti-missile shield in several European countries, President Dmitry Medvedev warned this week.

In his toughest-ever foreign policy statement, which Russian officials qualified Friday as "a call to dialogue," Mr. Medvedev said he has ordered the Russian military to immediately take measures to restore the strategic balance - as Moscow understands it - to counter US plans to install advanced radars and anti-missile interceptors in countries such as Poland, Romania, and Turkey in the next few years.

Analysts say the harsh Russian line could undermine President Obama's "reset" policy of making concessions in order to establish practical cooperation with Moscow, at a time when it is already under withering fire at home from Republicans who argue that Mr. Obama has already given away too much to the Kremlin with little to show for it in return.

Medvedev said that unless Obama signs a clearly worded and legally-binding statement declaring that NATO's anti-missile weapons will never be used against Russia, he will have "no choice" but to go ahead with Russian countermeasures, which would include stationing medium-range Iskander missiles in Russia's western enclave of Kaliningrad, from where they could rapidly strike NATO facilities across Europe.

"If our partners show an honest and responsible attitude towards taking into account Russia's legitimate security interests, I am sure we can come to an agreement," Medvedev said. "But if we are asked to 'cooperate' or in fact act against our own interests it will be difficult to establish common ground. In such a case we would be forced to take a different response."

"If the situation continues to develop not to Russia's favor, we reserve the right to discontinue further disarmament and arms control measures," including withdrawal from the New START treaty, he added.

The impasse over US missile defense plans has long been viewed by analysts on both sides as a make-or-break issue in efforts to get beyond the cold war legacy and forge a genuine strategic partnership between the US and Russia. Moscow fears that future development of the shield could undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent, whose core is a force of aging land-based Soviet-era intercontinental ballistic missiles.

But analysts are baffled over why Medvedev appears to have chosen to force the issue right now. …

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