REPORTING FROM MOSCOW -- Russia threatened Wednesday to withdraw from the New START nuclear arms control deal with the United States and deploy missiles aimed toward U.S. defense installations in Europe in a harsh sign of the tension between the two countries.
In a prime-time televised speech, President Dmitry Medvedev, visibly upset over missile defense consultations with Washington, said that an early warning radar system immediately would be put on red alert close to the Russian border with Poland and that missiles and other weapons would be positioned in the country’s west and south to target U.S. sites in Europe.
“These measures will be adequate, effective and low cost,” Medvedev said in his speech. “If the above measures prove insufficient, the Russian Federation will deploy modern offensive weapons in the west and south of the country ensuring our ability to take out any part of the U.S. missile defense system in Europe.”
Medvedev rebuked the United States and other NATO partners for not supporting Russia’s plan to work together on “a joint sector-based missile defense system” he offered at a NATO-Russia Council summit in Lisbon a year ago.
Medvedev said that the Kremlin will continue its dialogue with Washington on the issue. “There is still time to reach an understanding,” he added.
The New Start deal signed by Medvedev and President Obama called for both countries to reduce their nuclear weapons capabilities.
U.S. officials in Washington on Wednesday reiterated that the missile defense plan in Europe was going well and did not call for aiming weapons at Russia.
Analysts in Moscow said Medvedev’s tough talk was at least partially motivated by politics inside Russia, where elections are scheduled Dec. 4.
“All this anti-American rhetoric is meant for the internal consumption and even if Medvedev really means those measures they are completely unrealistic and in the end may harm Russian interests even more than those of the United States,” Alexander Golts, a defense analyst with Yezhednevny Zhurnal, a popular liberal online publication, said in an interview.
-- Sergei L. Loiko
Photo: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, center, heads a meeting with the Security Council at the Gorki residence outside Moscow, Nov. 23, 2011. At left is Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Credit: Mikhail Klimentyev/Ria Novosti/Kremlin Pool/EPA