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Obama may freeze Europe missile shield deals - Russian analyst

RIA Novosti

05/11/2008 16:21 MOSCOW, November 5 (RIA Novosti) - As economic pressures mount, the U.S. may freeze its plans to set up a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic when president-elect Barack Obama takes office, a Russian analyst said on Wednesday.

Moscow has repeatedly expressed its opposition to Washington's plans to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an accompanying radar in the Czech Republic, saying they threaten Russia's national security.

"More than anything, Russia's expectations over Obama's election in the U.S. are focused on the U.S. missile defense system in Europe," said Artyom Malgin, an advisor to the rector of the international relations university MGIMO.

"The democrats are skeptical over this Republican initiative, and it is entirely possible that the agreements that were signed with the Czech Republic and Poland will not in the end be realized," he told RIA Novosti.

The U.S. signed agreements on the missile shield with Warsaw and Prague during the summer, but Polish and Czech lawmakers have yet to ratify them.

"An important factor will be the economic crisis, which will not allow the American leadership to indulge in excessive and unjustified spending," Malgin said.

He also said Obama is likely to take a different, more accommodating stance in the Middle East, in particular on Iran, which will be good for Russia.

Andrei Kortunov, who heads the New Eurasia foundation, said Russia will need to take an entirely new approach with the incoming U.S. leadership, which will be replacing the hugely unpopular Bush administration.

Obama's election "creates new possibilities and creates new problems for Russia... It is one thing to work with Bush, an old Republican whose foreign policy became tangled up and was strongly criticized throughout the world, and quite another to build relations with a young American president who is now highly rated worldwide," he said.

However, he said no one should expect relations with the U.S. to see rapid improvements.

"Russian-American relations can benefit from Obama's victory, if we do not expect rapid breakthroughs, but invest time and effort into developing dialogue with the Americans, working not only with Obama, but with Congress, public opinion, and the political elite," he said.

Deutsche Bank economics analyst Yaroslav Lisovolik noted that Obama's victory has been well received by the markets.

"Obama's victory is quite a positive signal for the remainder of this year. One of the effects we can already see is market growth, including in Russia."

Russia's ruble-denominated MICEX temporarily closed earlier on Wednesday after a share price leap of more than 10%.

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