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West refreshes Russia’s enemy image

December 16, 2013, 20:34 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Marina Lystseva

MOSCOW, December 16 (Itar-Tass World Service) - The areas where Russia keeps several battalions of its Iskander missile complexes in the Western military district do not breach any international agreements, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday following media reports the missiles had entered duty in the Kaliningrad Region.

On Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry’s press officer, Igor Konashenkov, confirmed that the tactical ballistic missile systems were in service in some of Western military district’s artillery units. He added the areas of deployment did not run counter to any international agreements and accords.

Online Expert magazine quoted a report in Germany’s Bild weekly about Iskanders’ deployment in the Kaliningrad region and complemented it with Russian experts’ opinions.

According to Expert, the deployment of missile defense systems in Europe is one of the most sensitive issues within the triangle Russia-US-NATO. The tensions escalated last October, when reports arrived about fast-tracked construction of an antimissile base in Romania, to be armed with air defense interceptors SM-3 IB. The facility is scheduled to go operational as soon as 2015.

Russia and NATO have repeatedly tried to reach an agreement to cooperate on European missile defense plans, but the talks soon ended in a stalemate: the US refused to provide legal guarantees the system was not directed against the Russian deterrent force.

“Speculations to the effect the Iskander systems may be deployed in Kaliningrad have lasted for a while now, for more than five years,” a lecturer at the European Integration Department of the MGIMO university of international relations, Alexander Tevdoy-Burmuli, told Expert. “The Europeans have also been quite negative about the idea. They have never wished to see a strong group of Russian military forces emerge literally within the EU.”

What there may be behind this information leak in reality is a different matter, the expert says. The Iskander complexes are surely no threat to the EU. However, amid the general cooling of relations with the EU because of disagreements over Ukraine this gesture by Russia acquires a special meaning.

“The European Union, which has been very negative about the Iskander missiles issue all along, now may have purposefully permitted the leak to exacerbate the already problematic relations with Russia and make a clear hint positive dynamics in relations is hardly possible. Of late, the EU has made other gestures to show how pessimistic it was about bilateral relations. For instance, two weeks ago the EU announced that a visa-free regime agreement with Russia would not be signed next year.”

Asked about whether the report might spoil Russian-German relations, the expert said they had already soured over the last three years. “This stems from the way Germany sees Russia’s domestic policy and external policy incidents, like the situation in Ukraine. One can say that Russia has long ago lost Germany as its advocate within the EU.”

“In the 2006 address to the Federal Assembly President Vladimir Putin said: “If NATO turns a deaf ear to Russia’s objections against the missile defense in Europe, in response we shall deploy the missile systems Iskander in the Kaliningrad region,” said the head of the Center for Military Forecasting and Military Analysis, Anatoly Tsyganok. "In November 2010, the Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon discussed the possibility of Russia’s full-fledged participation in the European missile defense project. The talks ended inconclusively and we again warned the Western partners the deployment of Iskanders was a possibility. Lately, in 2011, the then President Dmitry Medvedev pledged Russia would quit the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-3) and curtail disarmament measures, if the US pushed ahead with deploying its missile defense in Europe.”

The same year Medvedev visited Kaliningrad to for the inauguration of a missile attack early-warning system - a new generation radar Voronezh-DM, Tsyganok recalled. Medvedev said then Russia had deployed missile complexes Iskander in the territory of Kaliningrad’s special area and added that Russia would do its utmost to ensure the Iskanders would remain invisible to Western radars. “In other words, he hinted there were jammers in Kaliningrad,” Tsyganok said.

“Everything points in one direction: the Iskanders that Bild journalists have discovered all of a sudden have been there for years,” the expert believes. “Surely, NATO is well aware of that. As well as of the fact that Russia does not violate any international accords.”

Asked about the reasons why the information has been leaked now, Tsyganok said: “As we all know, an agreement has been reached Iran would freeze its nuclear programme. Meanwhile, the European defense missile system had been created precisely on the pretext of providing protection from Iranian missiles. Now NATO needs to find a new enemy as an excuse for the existence of the missile defense system in Europe. Russia is perfect candidate for this role.

 

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