REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Dmitry Astakhov
By Kevin O’Flynn
The Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that his country would place missiles in the Baltic region of Kaliningrad in response to US missile defence plans.
In a move that will reawaken Cold War memories, Mr Medvedev, making his first state of the union address only hours after the victory of Barack Obama, used tough rhetoric, attacking the United States for its role in the war in Georgia, the financial crisis and accusing it of moving aggressively against Russia.
“We have got the clear impression that they are testing our strength,” Medvedev said in an 85-minute speech to parliament that was interrupted more than 50 times by applause.
The short-range Iskander missile would be deployed in the enclave, between two EU states, Lithuania and Poland, after Russia’s warnings that the US plans for a defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic were a threat to Russia’s security. Russia would also station equipment that would electronically hamper the proposed defence systems.
Moscow has previously accused Washington of betraying promises made by the President George Bush Sr not to expand Nato. Mr Medvedev called it a “relentless expansion”. Russia-US relations have not been good as a financially resurgent Russia reasserted itself, but ties reached a new low after the Russia-Georgia war when Russia invaded Georgia after its southern neighbour attacked its rebel republic South Ossetia, killing Russian peacekeepers and hundreds of civilians.
Mr Medvedev said the war “was, among other things, the result of the arrogant course of the American administration, which did not tolerate criticism and preferred unilateral decisions”. The Russian President also laid much of the blame for the world financial crisis on the US. Russia’s stock market has fallen more than 70 per cent and oligarchs have lost $230bn (£140bn), Bloomberg reported.
The Russian President went on: “There is a need to create mechanisms to block those decisions made by some members of the world community that are wrong and sometimes just dangerous.” This was a clear reference to the United States.
Mr Medvedev also proposed extending the Russian presidential term to six years and parliamentary term to five years, moves he said would help implement reform. Instead, they will probably raise more doubts in the West about the President’s commitment to democracy and whether he is smoothing the way for the Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, to return to power.
Mr Putin, who led Russia during a record period of economic growth and ebbing civil liberties, has remained a commanding figure since he left office. He has far more powers than any prime minister before him and many believe Mr Medvedev is a stop-gap figure.
Despite the rhetoric, Mr Medvedev said Russia was not anti-American and he hoped the new administration could help improve ties. “I would like to stress: we have no problems with the American people,” the President said. “We have no innate anti-Americanism.”
Russia is facing mounting economic problems. With the rouble under pressure and the price of oil sinking, Russia’s huge reserves saved under the oil boom are starting to shrink and Russians are becoming more nervous about the economic future.
Russia to deploy missiles near Poland
November 5 2008
President Dmitry Medvedev today said Russia will deploy missiles in territory near Nato member Poland in response to US missile defence plans.
He did not say whether the short-range Iskander missiles would be fitted with nuclear warheads.
In his first state of the nation speech, President Medvedev also blamed the US for the war in Georgia and the global financial crisis.
He said he hoped Barack Obama would act to improve relations with Russia but he did not offer congratulations to the president-elect.
President Medvedev also proposed increasing the Russian presidential term to six years from the current four, a major constitutional change that would further increase the power of the head of state and could deepen Western concern over democracy in Russia.
The president said the Iskander missiles will be deployed to Russia’s Kaliningrad region, which lies between Poland and the ex-Soviet republic of Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, but did not say how many would be used.
Equipment to electronically hamper the operation of prospective US missile defence facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic will be deployed, he said.
President Medvedev singled out the United States for criticism, casting Russia’s war with Georgia in August and the global financial turmoil as consequences of aggressive, selfish US policies.
“Mechanisms must be created to block mistaken, egotistical and sometimes simply dangerous decisions of certain members of the international community,” he said shortly after starting the 85-minute speech.
President Medvedev, whose criticism of Washington echoed addresses by his predecessor Vladimir Putin, made it clear he was referring to the US
The president said Georgia sparked the August war on its territory with what he called “barbaric aggression” against Russian-backed South Ossetia.
The conflict “was, among other things, the result of the arrogant course of the American administration, which did not tolerate criticism and preferred unilateral decisions.”
President Medvedev also painted Russia as a country threatened by growing Western military might.
“From what we have seen in recent years, the creation of a missile defence system, the encirclement of Russia with military bases, the relentless expansion of Nato, we have gotten the clear impression that they are testing our strength,” President Medvedev said.
He announced deployment of the short-range missiles as a military response to US plans to deploy missile-defence facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic – former Soviet satellites that are now Nato members.
Speaking just hours after Mr Obama was declared the victor in the US presidential election, President Medvedev said he hoped the incoming administration will take steps to improve badly damaged US ties with Russia.
He suggested it is up to the US – not the Kremlin – to seek to improve relations.
“I stress that we have no problem with the American people, no inborn anti-Americanism. And we hope that our partners, the US administration, will make a choice in favour of full-fledged relations with Russia,” President Medvedev said.
Tension in Russian-American relations has been driven to a post-Cold War high by Moscow’s war with US ally Georgia.
On the financial crisis, President Medvedev said overconfidence in American dominance after the collapse of the Soviet Union “led the US authorities to major mistakes in the economic sphere.”
The administration ignored warnings and harmed itself and others by “blowing up a money bubble to stimulate its own growth,” he said.
President Medvedev said the president’s tenure should be lengthened to six years to enable the government to more effectively implement reforms.
He said the term of the parliament also should be extended by a year to five years, and that parliament’s power must be increased by requiring the Cabinet to report to MPs regularly.
The proposals were President Medvedev’s first major initiative to amend the constitution since he was elected in March to succeed his long-time mentor Putin.
Mr Putin, who is now prime minister and has not ruled out a return to the Kremlin in the future, has said that the presidential term should be increased.
I really don’t think the US should have missiles in any country, but their own. Seems they are antagonizing other countries constantly. There is no need for any of this. Russia would not be placing missiles if the US had not decided too. Russia does have the right to protect it’s citizens as does any other country.
Bush stepped out of line with his missile defence plans.
American missiles should be kept on American soil not in other countries. This type of action endangers the countries they are placed in.
The US plans for a defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic, now endanger both of those countries.
For every action there is a reaction. Pointing missiles at my country would anger me as well.
How would you feel if Bush aimed missiles at your country? Threatened I bet.
This could have been prevented had Bush minded his own business.
Now Obama is left with the mess, Bush created. Placing missiles there does not protect the American people in any way. It’s just more war mongering.