Russia's new threats may endanger Obama's 'reset' policy
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said this week that he has ordered the Russian military to immediately take measures to counter US plans to install advanced radars and anti-missile interceptors in European countries.
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But analysts are baffled over why Medvedev appears to have chosen to force the issue right now.Skip to next paragraph
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Medvedev's gift to the GOP?
Some suggest that it may be for purely domestic consumption. Russia will hold elections next week for the State Duma and the ruling United Russia party, headed by Medvedev, has seen its popular support sharply eroded in recent weeks.
But others warn that Medvedev could be handing a political gift to Obama's Republican opponents, who might use it to bury the "reset" completely.
"This is an extremely tone deaf statement from Medvedev, which sounds as if it were written to appeal to hardliners in the West in order to draw the most rigid possible response," says Alexei Arbatov, head of the Center for International Security at Moscow's prestigious Institute of World Economy and International Relations. "As for the threat to quit START, it's like saying we are ready to cut off our own nose to spite our face."
Last year, Medvedev offered a plan to build a joint "sectoral" missile defense shield for Europe, in which Russia would cover its own territory and NATO's anti-missile measures would stop at the Russian border.
Since any rogue missile launch by Iran or North Korea would inevitably traverse Russian airspace, NATO leaders subsequently rejected Medvedev's concept as too limiting as it would leave European defense at the mercy of Russian capabilities and political will.
In a statement Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Andres Fogh Rasmussen said he was disappointed by Medvedev's suggestion that Russian missile deployments near the borders of NATO countries is an appropriate response to Western efforts to create an anti-missile shield. He added that NATO is ready to continue dialogue with Moscow to "show that cooperation, not confrontation, is the way ahead."
Obama's 'reset' button
Besides the New START treaty, which slashes offensive nuclear arsenals on both sides, Obama's reset has brought improved Russian cooperation in pressuring Iran to give up its alleged nuclear weapons program.
It's also resulted in Russia's agreement for a "northern corridor" through former Soviet territory, through which more than half of all supplies for NATO's beleaguered operation in Afghanistan now flow.
"Russia is not going to leave the START treaty, that would be really foolish," says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a leading Moscow foreign policy journal. "Medvedev just wanted to make it clear our talks with NATO on anti-missile weapons have failed. It's important to say so, because there is an impression [in the West] that everything's OK because we held talks on the subject. It's not OK. Russia is not happy, and this is an outstanding issue to be raised in future, and which will be key to US-Russia relations."
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