Russia scraps plan to deploy nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad
And Obama will review Pentagon`s proposed defence shield in central Europe
Russia today announced it was abandoning plans to deploy nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in its European Kaliningrad outpost – a sign that Moscow wants improved relations with the new US administration.
Defence officials said the Kremlin`s proposals to station short-range missiles in the small Baltic territory next to Poland had been "suspended".
The move followed Barack Obama`s decision to review the Pentagon`s controversial missile defence shield in central Europe.
The Kremlin has been incensed by the Bush administration`s plans to site missile interceptors and radar bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Moscow believes the plan upsets Europe`s strategic nuclear balance and targets Russia, but the Bush administration insisted it was intended to defend against a threat from Iran.
Obama has not yet decided whether to press ahead with the scheme or to abandon it, although indications suggest he is sceptical about its value.
Today`s Russian move can be interpreted as a Kremlin olive branch to the new US team and a tactic to put pressure on Obama to scrap the shield.
"These plans have been suspended because the new US administration is not pushing ahead with the plans to deploy the US missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic," an official told the Russian state news agency, Interfax.
"Russia does not need to deploy Iskanders in the Kaliningrad region if the US does not install its missile defence facilities in eastern Europe."
In November, the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, said Russia would station Iskanders in Kaliningrad – the former German city of Königsberg, which was seized by the Soviet Union after the second world war.
He warned that they would be directly pointed at the US nearby defence and radar bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, and said Russia would use radio-jamming equipment to wreck the Pentagon`s new missile defence system.
Today`s apparently conciliatory move appears to have been timed to coincide with a major speech by Vladimir Putin at Davos, Switzerland, later today.
The Russian prime minister is attending the world economic summit instead of Medvedev – a clear sign that he remains in charge.
He is expected to put forward his ideas for a change in the world economic order and deliver his assessment of what caused the global economic crisis.
He is also likely to put the boot into Ukraine, blaming the chaotic government in Kyiv for this month`s gas crisis, which left much of Europe without Russian gas.