Russia activated a radar warning system in its exclave of Kaliningrad on the borders of the European Union yesterday in response to Western plans for a U.S. missile shield in Europe.
The Voronezh-DM station will assume immediate combat readiness, President Dmitry Medvedev said at the facility’s inauguration, just days after threatening to deploy missiles in Kaliningrad amid a growing dispute with the West.“I expect that this step will be seen by our partners as the first signal of the readiness of our country to make an adequate response to the threats which the [Western] missile shield poses for our strategic nuclear forces,” Medvedev said.
Using rhetoric reminiscent of the Cold War, he added, “If this signal is not heard, we will deploy other methods of protection including the taking of tough countermeasures and the deployment of strike forces.”
Medvedev said last week Russia was prepared to deploy Iskander missiles, which officials say have a range of up to 500 kilometers, in the Kaliningrad exclave that borders EU members Poland and Lithuania.
Romania and Poland have agreed to host part of a revamped U.S. missile shield which Washington said is aimed solely at “rogue” states like Iran; Moscow, however, believes the facilities will also target its own capability. NATO-member Turkey has also decided to host an early warning radar at a military facility in the eastern province of Malatya.
Medvedev, who visited Kaliningrad to sign the decree on activating the station, said Russia needed to hear more than promises from the West to resolve the standoff.
“Verbal statements do not guarantee our interests. If other steps are made then of course we are ready to listen,” Medvedev said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies from Kaliningrad. “We can no longer be content with verbal promises that the [U.S. missile shield] system is not aimed against Russia. These are empty statements and do not guarantee our security.”
The president, however, added that the activation of the Kaliningrad station “does not close the door for dialogue” with the United States on missile defense.
Kaliningrad is part of the former German East Prussia region that was annexed by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II and remains one of Moscow’s prime territorial strategic assets. The RIA Novosti news agency quoted Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov as saying that the station could keep track of 500 objects at a range of up to 6,000 kilometers.
Meanwhile, in response to Medvedev’s remarks that Russia may deploy missiles to target the U.S. missile shield in Europe, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said neither NATO’s system nor Russia’s own system was a threat to each other.
The system was built for defensive purposes, Davutoğlu told reporters while returning from Cairo.
Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.