Russia Elevates Warning About U.S. Missile-Defense Plan in Europe

By David M. Herszenhorn, Thom Shanker

Russia will deploy its own missiles and could withdraw from the New Start nuclear arms reduction treaty if the United States moves forward with its plans for a missile-defense system in Europe, President Dmitri A. Medvedev warned on Wednesday.

“I have set the task to the armed forces to develop measures for disabling missile-defense data and control systems,” Mr. Medvedev said.

He said new Russian strategic ballistic missiles “will be equipped with advanced missile defense penetration systems and new highly effective warheads” and he reiterated Russia’s warning that it would deploy tactical missiles to the western territory of Kaliningrad, which borders Poland.

But it was Mr. Medvedev’s comments about the New Start treaty, put into effect this year, that suggested a darkening tone in what has been a steady drumbeat of warnings out of Moscow in recent days over the plans for a missile-defense system based in Europe.

“In the case of unfavorable development of the situation, Russia reserves the right to discontinue further steps in the field of disarmament and arms control,” Mr. Medvedev said in a televised address from his residence just outside Moscow.

“Given the intrinsic link between strategic offensive and defensive arms, conditions for our withdrawal from the New Start treaty could also arise,” he said.

Several times in his address, Mr. Medvedev reiterated his call for further negotiations between Russia and the United States, but such talks seem unlikely to change the strongly held views on each side.

At issue is the Europe-based system being developed by the United States that it says would defend against a potential missile attack by Iran. The United States has reached agreements to place 24 interceptor missiles in Romania, as well as a sophisticated radar system in Turkey.

Russia believes that that system could be used against its intercontinental ballistic missiles and has demanded assurance in writing that this would not be the case. The United States has said it will not agree to any restrictions on its missile-defense efforts.

Mr. Medvedev raised the issue directly with President Obama this month at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Hawaii. After those face-to-face talks, Mr. Medvedev said, “Our positions remain far apart.”

Since then, he and other Russian officials have made a steady stream of public statements warning of the consequences of a failure by the two sides to reach some accommodation.

American officials insist that the Europe-based missile-defense system was intended to address a threat from Iran — a position that was reiterated by the White House and the Pentagon after Mr. Medvedev’s televised remarks on Wednesday.

“In multiple channels, we have explained to Russian officials that the missile-defense systems planned for deployment in Europe do not and cannot threaten Russia’s strategic deterrent, said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council.  “Implementation of the New Start Treaty is going well is going well and we see no basis for threats to withdraw from it. “We continue to believe that cooperation with Russia on missile defense can enhance the security of the United States, our allies in Europe, and Russia, and we will continue to work with Russia to define the parameters of possible cooperation.”

Mr. Obama ordered a major redesign of the missile-defense plans he had inherited from his predecessor, George W. Bush, opting to move the system closer to Iran and to build it faster. Mr. Bush had favored placing interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic.

In his remarks, Mr. Medvedev said there was still room for negotiation. But he accused the United States and NATO of being unwilling to consider Russia’s point of view. “They are not going, at least as of today, to take into consideration our concerns about the architecture of the European missile defense system,” he said, “They are saying, ‘This is not against you, don’t worry.’ They are trying to calm us down.”

But in what was clearly a reference to the United States Congress, Mr. Medvedev said there were reasons not to trust the assurances from the Obama administration. “Legislators in some countries openly state,” he said, “ This is against you.’ ”
The NY Times