1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Geopolitical games

November 23, 2011

Through geopolitical posturing reminiscent of the Cold War, Russia has threatened to station missiles on the EU's borders if the US and NATO do not respect its security concerns over the construction of a missile shield.

Russian President Medvedev and PM Putin
The Kremlin views a NATO missile shield as threateningImage: picture alliance/RIA Novosti

The United States plans to move forward with the construction of a missile defense system in eastern Europe despite Russian threats on Wednesday to counter the NATO project with the deployment of additional weapon systems on the European Union's borders.

The Obama administration sought to reassure Moscow that the planned missile shield aims to counter a potential threat from Iran and poses no danger to Russia.

"In multiple channels, we have explained to Russian officials that the missile defense systems planned for deployment in Europe do not and cannot threaten Russia's security interests," said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for US President Barack Obama's National Security Council.

Although Vietor said Washington wants to "work with Russia to define the parameters of possible cooperation," he made clear that a change of plans is not on the cards.

"In pursuing this cooperation, we will not in any way limit or change our deployment plans in Europe," Vietor said.

Poland and Romania, former Soviet satellites, have agreed to host the missile shield.

US President Obama and Russian President Medvedev
Tensions over the missile shield could damage the US-Russian 'reset'Image: AP

Carrot and stick

Earlier on Wednesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow would not participate in a program that weakened its deterrent capability. Medvedev called for a legally binding agreement which would address Russian concerns.

"If our partners tackle the issue of taking our legitimate security interests into account in an honest and responsible way, I'm sure we will be able to come to an agreement," the Russian president said.

"But if they propose that we 'cooperate,' or, to say it honestly, work against our own interests, we won't be able to reach common ground," he continued.

Medvedev threatened to station short-range Iskander missiles and an early warning radar in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave situated between NATO members Poland and Lithuania. He also warned that Moscow could opt out of future arms control talks as well as the New START arms control treaty, the key policy achievement in President Obama's push to improve relations with Russia.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Russian threats were "reminiscent of the past" and called on Medvedev to continue dialogue with the Western alliance on the missile shield.

"The suggestion that deployment of missiles in the areas neighboring the alliance is an appropriate response…is very disappointing," Rasmussen said.

Medvedev faces a parliamentary election on December 4 and is expected to step down in March to allow Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to run for another term as president.

Author: Spencer Kimball (Reuters, AP, AFP)
Editor: Michael Lawton