After a NATO meeting in Estonia, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates condemned Russian President Dmitry Medvedev over a plan announced last week to deploy missiles to Kaliningrad to counter an American missile defense base being constructed in Poland.
Secretary Gates said the move, announced just hours after the US election, was designed to intimidate President-elect Barack Obama, and was “hardly the welcome a new American administration deserves.” He also feigned ignorance about the purpose of placing Iskander missiles in the Poland-adjacent exclave, saying “the only real emerging threat to Russia’s periphery is Iran,” and the missiles in Kaliningrad wouldn’t have the range to reach Iran.
Of course President Medvedev made it clear at the time of the announcement that the Iskander missiles were designed to “neutralize” US interceptor missiles scheduled to be placed in Poland over the next few years, hardly the first time Russia has expressed concern about the base. The US has insisted that the base is meant to counter an Iranian missile threat, but the maximum range of even Iran’s best missile is several hundred kilometers short of the base.
President Medvedev says his government is willing to reverse the decision to place the missiles in Kaliningrad if Obama cancels construction of the missile defense. In a phone call with Polish President Lech Kaczynski Obama indicated that he had made no decisions about continuing with the expensive base, but would support it if the technology proved workable.