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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia ready to deploy Iskander missiles at any time - Gen. Staff

RIA Novosti

19/11/2008 17:14 MOSCOW, November 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is ready to deploy Iskander missile systems to its Kaliningrad Region at any time, the chief of the General Staff said Wednesday.

"As soon as the final decision is made by our supreme commander-in-chief, these missile systems will be deployed, wherever it is ordered," General of the Army Nikolai Makarov told Russian media.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said earlier this month the country would deploy Iskander-M systems (SS-26 Stone) with a range of 500 km (311 miles) in the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between NATO members Lithuania and Poland, to "neutralize if necessary" a proposed U.S. missile defense system in Central Europe.

Medvedev's announcement, in his annual state of the nation address, sparked a wave of criticism in Europe, while some military analysts in Russia expressed doubts over the reliability of Moscow's response to Washington's missile shield plans.

Washington recently said it had provided new proposals to ease Russia's concerns over the planned deployment of 10 U.S. interceptor missiles in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic, which the Bush administration has said are needed to counter possible attacks from "rogue" states such as Iran.

Russia, which says the missile defense system is a threat to its national security, has indicated it will not address the U.S. proposals until after President-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated in January.

The speaker of the Russian parliament's lower house said Wednesday that Moscow would not deploy the Iskanders until Washington started deployment of its missile defense shield in Central Europe.

"This [Iskander deployment] is a response measure. The deployment will not start before the construction of a launcher in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic starts. Our neighbors in Europe should realize that," Boris Gryzlov said.

Gryzlov said that on Tuesday he discussed the problem with the Czech parliament speaker, who, he said, decided to postpone the legislature's discussion of an agreement on the radar base "at least until late January." Gryzlov said the delay "inspires a certain optimism."

The relatively new Iskander missiles have only been subject to test firing. Although the tests were reported to have been successful, some experts believe it will be impossible to set up the five proposed Iskander brigades in Kaliningrad over the next four or five years due to a lack of production capacity.

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