Russia may depoloy missiles to Baltic, Medvedev says."

Posted in Russia | 05-Nov-08 | Author: Ellen Barry and Sonia Kishkovs| Source: International Herald Tribune

President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia at the Kremlin on Wednesday.

MOSCOW: In a wide-ranging attack on the United States, President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia warned Wednesday that Moscow might deploy short-range missiles in the Baltic region to counter a perceived threat from a proposed U.S. missile defense shield in eastern Europe.

Medvedev also proposed to extend the constitutional term of the presidency from four years to six - a move that could enable future Russian presidents to serve 12 years over two consecutive terms. His remarks, in his first state of the nation address since assuming the presidency in May, was delivered within hours of the election of Barack Obama in the United States and offered a chill glimpse into the potential issues and tensions confronting the new U.S. leader when he takes office in January. His comments also seemed at odds with the broader groundswell of support for the U.S. president-elect from many governments across the globe.

Medvedev did not specifically congratulate Obama on his victory, saying only that he hoped that "our partners - the new U.S. administration - will make a choice in favor of full-fledged relationship with Russia."

But he sent a telegram later saying that "Russian-American relations have historically been an important factor for stability in the world and have great importance and sometimes key significance for resolving many of today's international and regional problems."

"I hope for a constructive dialogue with you based on trust and consideration of each other's interests," Medvedev's telegram said, according to the Kremlin Web site.

In his speech, however, Medvedev spoke of a "new configuration for the military forces of our country" that would include abandoning plans to dismantle some missile regiments, while stationing of missiles in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea.

"We earlier planned to take three missile regiments within the missile division stationed in Kozelsk off combat duty and discontinue the division itself by 2010. I have decided to refrain from these plans," Medvedev said.

"The Iskander missile system will be deployed in Kaliningrad region to neutralize, when necessary, the missile shield," Medvedev said.

"Radioelectronic equipment located in the western region" of Russia in the Kaliningrad region "will jam objects of the U.S. missile defense system," Medvedev said.

"These are forced measures," Medvedev said. "We have told our partners more than once that we want positive cooperation, we want to act together to combat common threats, that we want to act together. But they, unfortunately, don't want to listen to us."

He was apparently referring to discussions on the proposed missile shield with the United States.

Kaliningrad lies between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic Sea, a wedge between countries firmly aligned with the West since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lithuania and Poland are members of the EU and the U.S.-led NATO alliance.

Iskander missiles have a range of about 250 miles and use conventional warheads, according to news reports. The United States said the missile shield was needed to intercept missiles from states including Iran, and did not threaten Russia. But Russia says it regards the system as a threat and has warned that it would target such installations in lands that belonged to the Warsaw Pact.

In the 90-minute speech, Medvedev rounded on the United States, saying the global financial crisis had begun as a "local extraordinary event" in U.S. markets and blaming the August war in Georgia on "the U.S. administration's policy which is selfish, cannot stand criticism and prefers unilateral decisions," Reuters reported.

He said Washington's belief in "its own opinion as the only right and indisputable one" had "in the final account led the United States to economic blunders."

Referring to the fighting in Georgia, he said: "The conflict in the Caucasus was used as a pretext for sending NATO warships to the Black Sea and then for the forceful foisting on Europe of America's anti-missile system, which in its turn will entail retaliatory measures by Russia."

The fighting in Georgia was "among other things, the result of the arrogant course of the U.S. administration which hates criticism and prefers unilateral decisions," Medvedev said.

His speech was broadcast live on television and radio.

Speaking about Russian constitutional arrangements, Medvedev said he had proposed increasing term limits for presidents from four to six years and for lawmakers from four to five years. He did not say when the changes would come into effect.

The issue of term limits surfaced during the eight-year rule of Medvedev's successor, Vladimir Putin, when there was speculation that Putin might seek to remain in office by changing the constitution to secure a third term. Instead, Medvedev appointed his predecessor prime minister.

Medvedev said that the proposed extension was necessary to confront challenges. He said the authorities should have "enough time to implement what they announced and show the results of their work to the people."

And, he said, he wanted to enhance the powers of Parliament. "I am convinced that our movement toward freedom and democracy will be successful and steadfast only if the authority of the president and the State Duma will be high," Medvedev said, according to Reuters.