Russia’s top general said today that plans to deploy missiles in an enclave next to Poland have not been shelved, despite a decision by the United States to rethink plans for missile defense in Europe.
President Obama’s decision to scrap a land-based missile defense system has been welcomed by Russia, whose leaders threatened to deploy short-range Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad if the United States refused to drop the plans, Reuters reports.
The Kremlin always said Russia would only deploy the missiles as a counter-measure if Washington went ahead with its missile shield. Moscow said the shield threatened its national security and would upset the strategic balance in Europe.
Russian deputy defense minister Vladimir Popovkin said in an interview that “naturally we will scrap the measures that Russia planned to take” in response to the shield and specifically named Iskander deployment as one of them.
When asked about the matter today, the chief of Russia’s general staff, Nikolai Makarov, said: “There has been no such decision. It should be a political decision. It should be made by the president.”
“They (the Americans) have not given up the anti-missile shield; they have replaced it with a sea-based component,” Makarov told reporters on a plane from Moscow to Zurich. The general was accompanying President Dmitry Medvedev on a trip to Switzerland.
It is highly unusual in Russia for two senior officials to contradict each other publicly on a sensitive matter of national and international importance.
It was not immediately clear why Makarov had done so, though some sources suggested the general might have wanted to emphasize that such an important decision could only be taken by the president and should not be announced by a deputy minister.
Pic: Russian S-300 missile launch