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Europe

Europe Uneasy Over Russian Plans to Deploy Missiles

Plans by Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev to deploy missiles just a stone's throw from EU borders has caused concern in western Europe. Politicians are urging Russia and the US to enter into a constructive dialog.

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev seems to have a different view of the world than Europe

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has criticized Russia's plans to deploy missiles in Kaliningrad. He told German television it was "the wrong signal at the wrong time."

Steinmeier called on Russia to enter into dialogue with the United States on the issue. He said he hoped Moscow would recognize the election of Barack Obama as an opportunity for a new beginning. At the same time, he warned of a new spiral of rearmament in Europe.

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday, Nov. 5 announced plans to position short-range missiles in the western Russian territory of Kaliningrad, located on the EU's eastern border between Lithuania and Poland. Medvedev justified the move as a reaction to US plans to set up a missile defense shield in Poland.

Russia is a required partner

"Russia is not an easy partner," Steinmeier said. But without Russia, international crises such as Afghanistan, Iran, the Middle East or Caucasus could not be solved, he said.

A rocket designed for a missile defense system takes off

The defense system will entail short-range missiles

Karsten Voigt, the Coordinator of German-American Cooperation in the German Foreign Office, called Medvedev's plans "negative and destructive" and said the issue showed the importance of disarmament dialogue with Russia.

"You have to talk with Russia, because you need Russia in order to curtail Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons," Voigt said in an interview with news agency AP.

NATO meanwhile voiced "serious worries" about the compatibility of Russia's plans with arms control arrangements, alliance spokesman Robert Pszczel said.

"Moreover, placing these Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad region would not help NATO and Russia to improve their relationship," Pszczel told AFP news agency.

EU seeks united voice towards Russia

The European Commission urged member states to agree to resume EU-Russia partnership talks in its review of EU-Russia relations issued on Wednesday. Discussions between the two sides were suspended in September following the Russia-Georgia conflict.

However, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the talks "are not a gift to Russia."

"We have a deep and complex relationship where our mutual interests are deeply entwined," Ferrero-Waldner told the EU Parliament's foreign affairs committee.

The Russian and EU flags

The Caucasus conflict has severely strained Russian-EU ties

"This does not mean business as usual because we cannot accept the status quo in Georgia," she said. "I think it's now time to really start negotiating."

EU foreign ministers will be meeting on Nov. 10. It would be an opportunity for member states to find a common basis for the negotiations to proceed, the review said.

"When the EU speaks with one voice, and acts as one, Russia takes notice," it said.

Ferrero-Waldner criticized Russia's missile deployment plans.

"If you are going to put missiles in Kaliningrad that is not going to increase security in Europe," Ferrero-Waldner told the EU lawmakers. "I wonder how such steps are compatible with the new European security strategy that Russia wants."

The EU foreign ministers meeting will take place just days ahead of an EU-Russia summit in Nice, France on Nov. 14.

One day later, Medvedev and Obama could have the opportunity to begin sorting out their differences. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the two politicians may meet on Nov. 15 on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Washington, when leaders of the world's largest economies gather to discuss the global financial crisis.

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