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The Obama effect? Russia softens missile stand


US President-elect Barack Obama. File photo

MOSCOW (BNS): Is the Obama effect already visible in the international strategic sphere?

In what could well be a major turn around, Russia has said that it would abandon the proposal to field Iskander missiles along the Polish border if the US gives up its plans to deploy the missile shield in eastern Europe.

The Russian hint of a softening came hours after US vice president-elect Joe Biden told the Polish president that the incoming Obama administration would make a fresh assessment of the Ballistic Missile Defence Shield. And on Saturday, agencies reported that a senior aide to the US president-elect Barack Obama had told journalists that he had "made no commitment" on placing the missile interceptors in Poland, contradicting an earlier claim by the Polish government.

The Bush administration has already put in place a plan to deploy 10 missile interceptor units in Poland and a tracking radar in Czech Republic, extensively against missiles from rogue countries such as Iran and North Korea. But Russia believes the shield threatens its security.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow on Tuesday that his country will deploy the Iskander missiles close to its border with Poland only "if the third zone of positioning of the US anti-missile shield is created."

The comment is significant because it came hours after Polish president Lech Kaczynski's office said in a statement that the US vice president-elect Joe Biden told him that Obama's stand on missile shield will "depend on the assessment of a national security team, which at this time is being drawn up, as well as the effectiveness and the value of the project."

Though Obama has supported the MDS, he has called for more tests and better justification of the huge costs involved in it.
The Russian foreign minister said he doesn't see the Russian president's announcement making any negative impact on Russia-EU relations.

He said his country was hopeful of very constructive talks with Barack Obama, the US president elect. He said the present American administration's proposal for addressing Russia's missile shield worry fell way short of the "agreements reached earlier at the levels of the presidents."

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