TALLINN, Estonia – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has rejected a Russian suggestion that both countries scrap plans to place missile systems in Eastern Europe.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a televised interview with French journalists broadcast Thursday that Moscow was willing to reconsider deploying Iskander missiles in its westernmost region of Kaliningrad if Washington did not place 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic.
Gates said that the proposal was not acceptable to the United States.
"Quite frankly I'm not sure what the missiles in Kaliningrad would be for," Gates said. "After all, the only real emerging threat to Russia's periphery is Iran, and I don't think the Iskander missile has the range to get there from Kaliningrad."
Medvedev announced Moscow's intention to deploy the missiles a day after the U.S. presidential election.
It was "hardly the welcome a new American administration deserves," Gates said. "Such provocative remarks are unnecessary and misguided."
Gates said Russia has nothing to fear from a defensive missile shield in Eastern Europe.
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has said it would be prudent to "explore the possibility of deploying missile defense systems in Europe," in light of what he called active efforts by Iran to develop ballistic missiles as well as nuclear weapons.
Iran said Wednesday that it had successfully test-fired a new generation of long range surface-to-surface missile — one that could easily strike as far away as southeastern Europe with greater precision than earlier models.
The Sajjil is a solid fuel high-speed missile with a range of about 1,200 miles, Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammed Najjar said on state television. At that range, it could easily strike Iran's arch-foe Israel and go as far as southeastern Europe.
The current U.S. administration argues the limited missile system would protect Europe against potential future attacks by Iranian long-range missiles. Moscow angrily dismisses these assertions, saying the system could eliminate Russia's nuclear deterrent or spy on its military installations.