Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Iskander missile deployment in northwestern Russia incomprehensible – Estonian defense minister

The deployment of Iskander missiles in Russia's northwestern military district is incomprehensible in view of Russia's current relations with NATO, Estonian Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo has said.

On Saturday, the chief of Russia's Ground Forces, Col. Gen. Alexander Postnikov, said the Iskander missiles had entered service with the Armed Forces in the Leningrad Military District.

"During the past two decades, NATO has been seeking benevolent mutual understanding in relations with Russia. But benevolence does not mean naivety, that is why Moscow's decision to deploy Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad region did not surprise us," Aaviksoo said.

"We do not comprehend such a step considering both modern security threats and current relations between Russia and NATO," he said.

The United States scrapped earlier plans last September for an antimissile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland. Moscow welcomed the move, and President Dmitry Medvedev said later that Russia would drop plans to deploy Iskander-M missiles in its Kaliningrad Region, which borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania.

However, Washington has not given up on its European missile shield initiative. In May, the United States opened a temporary military base in northern Poland, just 80 km (50 miles) from the border of Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, in accordance with an agreement negotiated under former President George Bush in 2008 – a move which drew much criticism from Russia.

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