Medvedev: Russia to Deploy Missiles Near Poland


November, 2008

Russia will deploy missiles near NATO member Poland in response to U.S. missile defense plans, President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday in his first state of the nation speech. Medvedev also singled out the United States for criticism, casting Russia's war with Georgia in August and the global financial turmoil as consequences of aggressive, selfish U.S. policies. He said he hoped the next U.S. administration would act to improve relations. In a separate telegram, he congratulated Barack Obama on his election victory and said he was hoping for "constructive dialogue" with the incoming U.S. president. Medvedev also proposed increasing the Russian presidential term to six years from the current four, a major constitutional change that would further increase the power of the head of state and could deepen Western concern over democracy in Russia.

The president said the Iskander missiles will be deployed to Russia's Kaliningrad region, which lies between Poland and the ex-Soviet republic of Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, but did not say how many would be used. Equipment to electronically hamper the operation of prospective U.S. missile defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic will be deployed, he said. He did not say whether the short-range Iskander missiles would be fitted with nuclear warheads and it was not clear exactly when the missiles would be deployed. "Mechanisms must be created to block mistaken, egoistical and sometimes simply dangerous decisions of certain members of the international community," he said shortly after starting the 85-minute speech, making it clear he was referring to the United States. The president said Georgia sparked the August war on its territory with what he called "barbaric aggression" against Russian-backed South Ossetia. The conflict "was, among other things, the result of the arrogant course of the American administration, which did not tolerate criticism and preferred unilateral decisions."

Medvedev also painted Russia as a country threatened by growing Western military might. "From what we have seen in recent years, the creation of a missile defense system, the encirclement of Russia with military bases, the relentless expansion of NATO, we have gotten the clear impression that they are testing our strength," Medvedev said. He announced deployment of the short-range missiles as a military response to U.S. plans to deploy missile-defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic — former Soviet satellites that are now NATO members. Speaking just hours after Obama was declared the victor in the U.S. presidential election, Medvedev said he hoped the incoming administration will take steps to improve badly damaged U.S. ties with Russia. He suggested it is up to the U.S. — not the Kremlin — to seek to improve relations. "I stress that we have no problem with the American people, no inborn anti-Americanism. And we hope that our partners, the U.S. administration, will make a choice in favor of full-fledged relations with Russia," Medvedev said.

Tension in Russian-American relations has been driven to a post-Cold War high by Moscow's war with U.S. ally Georgia. On the financial crisis, Medvedev said overconfidence in American dominance after the collapse of the Soviet Union "led the U.S. authorities to major mistakes in the economic sphere." The administration ignored warnings and harmed itself and others by "blowing up a money bubble to stimulate its own growth," he said. Medvedev said the president's tenure should be lengthened to six years to enable the government to more effectively implement reforms. He said the term of the parliament also should be extended by a year to five years, and that parliament's power must be increased by requiring the Cabinet to report to lawmakers regularly. The proposals were Medvedev's first major initiative to amend the constitution since he was elected in March to succeed his longtime mentor Vladimir Putin. Putin, who is now prime minister and has not ruled out a return to the Kremlin in the future, has favored increasing the presidential term.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081105/...ussia_medvedev

Russia's Iskander Best Answer to U.S. Missiles in Europe - Analyst


The placement of short-range tactical missiles near Poland would be the best response to U.S. missile plans for Europe, a Russian military analyst said on Wednesday. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday in his first state of the nation address to parliament that Russia would deploy short-range Iskander missile systems in its exclave of Kaliningrad "to neutralize if necessary the anti-ballistic missile system in Europe." "The deployment of Iskander missile systems with a range of 500 km (310 miles) [in the Kaliningrad region] would allow Russia to target the entire territory of Poland and also parts of Germany and the Czech Republic," said Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Moscow-based Military Forecast Center. The Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone) tactical system is equipped with high-precision cruise missiles reportedly capable of carrying multiple conventional and nuclear warheads. "We could have deployed either strategic bombers or silo-based ballistic missiles in response to the U.S. missile shield in Europe. However, Iskander is the best solution both from an economic and a military standpoint," Tsyganyuk said. Moscow has repeatedly expressed its opposition to Washington's plans to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an accompanying radar in the Czech Republic, saying they threaten Russia's national security. The United States claims the new bases are needed to counter missile attacks by "rogue states" such as Iran. The U.S. signed deals on the missile shield with Warsaw and Prague during the summer. Polish and Czech lawmakers have yet to ratify the agreements. Russian officials earlier said Moscow could deploy its Iskander tactical missiles and strategic bombers in Belarus, and warned that Russia could target its missiles at Poland.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20081105/118140039.html

Russia to Equip 5 Brigades With Iskander Missile Systems by 2015

At least five missile brigades deployed on Russia's western border will be equipped with new Iskander-M short-range missile systems by 2015, a Defense Ministry source said on Friday. "By 2015, the Iskander system will be put in service with five missile brigades, primarily near Russia's western border and in the Kaliningrad Region," the source said. Russia believes that the placement of high-precision tactical missiles near borders with NATO countries would be the best response to U.S. missile defense plans for Europe. Moscow has repeatedly expressed its opposition to Washington's plans to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an accompanying radar in the Czech Republic, saying they threaten Russia's national security. The deployment of mobile Iskander-M missile systems with a range of 500 km (310 miles) in the Kaliningrad region would allow Russia to target almost anywhere in Poland and also parts of Germany and the Czech Republic.

The Iskander-M system is equipped with a solid-propellant single-stage guided missile 9M723K1 (SS-26 Stone) controlled throughout the entire flight path and fitted with a non-separable warhead. The missile follows a non-ballistic "fuzzy" path, which includes such features as violent maneuvers in the terminal phase of flight and the release of decoys. It is built with elements of "stealth" technology and has a reduced reflective surface. The altitude of its flight trajectory never exceeds 50 kilometers (30 miles), which makes it even harder to detect and intercept. The source also said Russia will supply Iskander missile systems to Belarus as part of an "asymmetric" response to the U.S. European missile shield. "Belarus is our ally and we ... will deliver these systems to that country on a priority and most favorable basis," the official said. Russia and Belarus, which have maintained close political and economic ties since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, have been in talks for several years on the delivery of Iskander-E systems to equip at least one Belarus missile brigade by 2015. With its maximum range of 280 km (about 180 miles), Iskander-E is likely to target U.S. missile defense facilities in Poland, which shares a border with Belarus.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20081107/118191000.html

Russia to Deploy Military Bases in Tskhinvali, Gudauta


Russia’s Defense Ministry has chosen the sites for future bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They will be deployed in Tskhinvali and Gudauta respectively, RIA Novosti reported Friday with reference to a source with Defense Ministry. “Russia’s military bases will be established during 2009 in Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) and Gudauta (Abkhazia),” the source said. Chief of the RF Armed Forces General Staff Army General Nikolay Makarov told reporters in Moscow in October that the strength of each base would be 3,700 servicemen. According to Makarov, the bases will be deployed to defend interests of Russia and of both republics. Russia will set up bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia under the Friendship and Cooperation Treaties concluded with those republics.

Source: http://www.kommersant.com/p-13537/ba...South_Ossetia/

In other news:

Georgia Claims on Russia War Called Into Question


Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the longstanding Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression. Instead, the accounts suggest that Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm. The accounts are neither fully conclusive nor broad enough to settle the many lingering disputes over blame in a war that hardened relations between the Kremlin and the West. But they raise questions about the accuracy and honesty of Georgia’s insistence that its shelling of Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, was a precise operation. Georgia has variously defended the shelling as necessary to stop heavy Ossetian shelling of Georgian villages, bring order to the region or counter a Russian invasion. President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia has characterized the attack as a precise and defensive act. But according to observations of the monitors, documented Aug. 7 and Aug. 8, Georgian artillery rounds and rockets were falling throughout the city at intervals of 15 to 20 seconds between explosions, and within the first hour of the bombardment at least 48 rounds landed in a civilian area. The monitors have also said they were unable to verify that ethnic Georgian villages were under heavy bombardment that evening, calling to question one of Mr. Saakashvili’s main justifications for the attack.

Senior Georgian officials contest these accounts, and have urged Western governments to discount them. “That information, I don’t know what it is and how it is confirmed,” said Giga Bokeria, Georgia’s deputy foreign minister. “There is such an amount of evidence of continuous attacks on Georgian-controlled villages and so much evidence of Russian military buildup, it doesn’t change in any case the general picture of events.” He added: “Who was counting those explosions? It sounds a bit peculiar.” The Kremlin has embraced the monitors’ observations, which, according to a written statement from Grigory Karasin, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, reflect “the actual course of events prior to Georgia’s aggression.” He added that the accounts “refute” allegations by Tbilisi of bombardments that he called mythical. The monitors were members of an international team working under the mandate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or O.S.C.E. A multilateral organization with 56 member states, the group has monitored the conflict since a previous cease-fire agreement in the 1990s.

The observations by the monitors, including a Finnish major, a Belarussian airborne captain and a Polish civilian, have been the subject of two confidential briefings to diplomats in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, one in August and the other in October. Summaries were shared with The New York Times by people in attendance at both. Details were then confirmed by three Western diplomats and a Russian, and were not disputed by the O.S.C.E.’s mission in Tbilisi, which was provided with a written summary of the observations. Mr. Saakashvili, who has compared Russia’s incursion into Georgia to the Nazi annexations in Europe in 1938 and the Soviet suppression of Prague in 1968, faces domestic unease with his leadership and skepticism about his judgment from Western governments. The brief war was a disaster for Georgia. The attack backfired. Georgia’s army was humiliated as Russian forces overwhelmed its brigades, seized and looted their bases, captured their equipment and roamed the country’s roads at will. Villages that Georgia vowed to save were ransacked and cleared of their populations by irregular Ossetian, Chechen and Cossack forces, and several were burned to the ground.

Massing of Weapons

According to the monitors, an O.S.C.E. patrol at 3 p.m. on Aug. 7 saw large numbers of Georgian artillery and grad rocket launchers massing on roads north of Gori, just south of the enclave. At 6:10 p.m., the monitors were told by Russian peacekeepers of suspected Georgian artillery fire on Khetagurovo, an Ossetian village; this report was not independently confirmed, and Georgia declared a unilateral cease-fire shortly thereafter, about 7 p.m. During a news broadcast that began at 11 p.m., Georgia announced that Georgian villages were being shelled, and declared an operation “to restore constitutional order” in South Ossetia. The bombardment of Tskhinvali started soon after the broadcast. According to the monitors, however, no shelling of Georgian villages could be heard in the hours before the Georgian bombardment. At least two of the four villages that Georgia has since said were under fire were near the observers’ office in Tskhinvali, and the monitors there likely would have heard artillery fire nearby.


Moreover, the observers made a record of the rounds exploding after Georgia’s bombardment began at 11:35 p.m. At 11:45 p.m., rounds were exploding at intervals of 15 to 20 seconds between impacts, they noted. At 12:15 a.m. on Aug. 8, Gen. Maj. Marat M. Kulakhmetov, commander of Russian peacekeepers in the enclave, reported to the monitors that his unit had casualties, indicating that Russian soldiers had come under fire. By 12:35 a.m. the observers had recorded at least 100 heavy rounds exploding across Tskhinvali, including 48 close to the observers’ office, which is in a civilian area and was damaged. Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said that by morning on Aug. 8 two Russian soldiers had been killed and five wounded. Two senior Western military officers stationed in Georgia, speaking on condition of anonymity because they work with Georgia’s military, said that whatever Russia’s behavior in or intentions for the enclave, once Georgia’s artillery or rockets struck Russian positions, conflict with Russia was all but inevitable. This clear risk, they said, made Georgia’s attack dangerous and unwise.


Senior Georgia officials, a group with scant military experience and personal loyalties to Mr. Saakashvili, have said that much of the damage to Tskhinvali was caused in combat between its soldiers and separatists, or by Russian airstrikes and bombardments in its counterattack the next day. As for its broader shelling of the city, Georgia has told Western diplomats that Ossetians hid weapons in civilian buildings, making them legitimate targets. “The Georgians have been quite clear that they were shelling targets — the mayor’s office, police headquarters — that had been used for military purposes,” said Matthew J. Bryza, a deputy assistant secretary of state and one of Mr. Saakashvili’s vocal supporters in Washington. Those claims have not been independently verified, and Georgia’s account was disputed by Ryan Grist, a former British Army captain who was the senior O.S.C.E. representative in Georgia when the war broke out. Mr. Grist said that he was in constant contact that night with all sides, with the office in Tskhinvali and with Wing Commander Stephen Young, the retired British military officer who leads the monitoring team.


“It was clear to me that the attack was completely indiscriminate and disproportionate to any, if indeed there had been any, provocation,” Mr. Grist said. “The attack was clearly, in my mind, an indiscriminate attack on the town, as a town.” Mr. Grist has served as a military officer or diplomat in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Kosovo and Yugoslavia. In August, after the Georgian foreign minister, Eka Tkeshelashvili, who has no military experience, assured diplomats in Tbilisi that the attack was measured and discriminate, Mr. Grist gave a briefing to diplomats from the European Union that drew from the monitors’ observations and included his assessments. He then soon resigned under unclear circumstances.


A second briefing was led by Commander Young in October for military attachés visiting Georgia. At the meeting, according to a person in attendance, Commander Young stood by the monitors’ assessment that Georgian villages had not been extensively shelled on the evening or night of Aug. 7. “If there had been heavy shelling in areas that Georgia claimed were shelled, then our people would have heard it, and they didn’t,” Commander Young said, according to the person who attended. “They heard only occasional small-arms fire.” The O.S.C.E turned down a request by The Times to interview Commander Young and the monitors, saying they worked in sensitive jobs and would not be publicly engaged in this disagreement.


Grievances and Exaggeration


Disentangling the Russian and Georgian accounts has been complicated. The violence along the enclave’s boundaries that had occurred in recent summers was more widespread this year, and in the days before Aug. 7 there had been shelling of Georgian villages. Tensions had been soaring. Each side has fresh lists of grievances about the other, which they insist are decisive. But both sides also have a record of misstatement and exaggeration, which includes circulating casualty estimates that have not withstood independent examination. With the international standing of both Russia and Georgia damaged, the public relations battle has been intensive. Russian military units have been implicated in destruction of civilian property and accused by Georgia of participating with Ossetian militias in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Russia and South Ossetia have accused Georgia of attacking Ossetian civilians.


But a critical and as yet unanswered question has been what changed for Georgia between 7 p.m. on Aug 7, when Mr. Saakashvili declared a cease-fire, and 11:30 p.m., when he says he ordered the attack. The Russian and Ossetian governments have said the cease-fire was a ruse used to position rockets and artillery for the assault. That view is widely held by Ossetians. Civilians repeatedly reported resting at home after the cease-fire broadcast by Mr. Saakashvili. Emeliya B. Dzhoyeva, 68, was home with her husband, Felix, 70, when the bombardment began. He lost his left arm below the elbow and suffered burns to his right arm and torso. “Saakashvili told us that nothing would happen,” she said. “So we all just went to bed.”


Neither Georgia nor its Western allies have as yet provided conclusive evidence that Russia was invading the country or that the situation for Georgians in the Ossetian zone was so dire that a large-scale military attack was necessary, as Mr. Saakashvili insists. Georgia has released telephone intercepts indicating that a Russian armored column apparently entered the enclave from Russia early on the Aug. 7, which would be a violation of the peacekeeping rules. Georgia said the column marked the beginning of an invasion. But the intercepts did not show the column’s size, composition or mission, and there has not been evidence that it was engaged with Georgian forces until many hours after the Georgian bombardment; Russia insists it was simply a routine logistics train or troop rotation.


Unclear Accounts of Shelling


Interviews by The Times have found a mixed picture on the question of whether Georgian villages were shelled after Mr. Saakashvili declared the cease-fire. Residents of the village of Zemo Nigozi, one of the villages that Georgia has said was under heavy fire, said they were shelled from 6 p.m. on, supporting Georgian statements. In two other villages, interviews did not support Georgian claims. In Avnevi, several residents said the shelling stopped before the cease-fire and did not resume until roughly the same time as the Georgian bombardment. In Tamarasheni, some residents said they were lightly shelled on the evening of Aug. 7, but felt safe enough not to retreat to their basements. Others said they were not shelled until Aug 9.


With a paucity of reliable and unbiased information available, the O.S.C.E. observations put the United States in a potentially difficult position. The United States, Mr. Saakashvili’s principal source of international support, has for years accepted the organization’s conclusions and praised its professionalism. Mr. Bryza refrained from passing judgment on the conflicting accounts. “I wasn’t there,” he said, referring to the battle. “We didn’t have people there. But the O.S.C.E. really has been our benchmark on many things over the years.” he O.S.C.E. itself, while refusing to discuss its internal findings, stood by the accuracy of its work but urged caution in interpreting it too broadly. “We are confident that all O.S.C.E. observations are expert, accurate and unbiased,” Martha Freeman, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail message. “However, monitoring activities in certain areas at certain times cannot be taken in isolation to provide a comprehensive account.”


Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/07/wo...60871f&ei=5087

Conductor Defends Russia, to Strains of Prokofiev


Back in August, the conductor Valery Gergiev took the stage in Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, and denounced its “monstrous bombardment” by Georgia. Speaking both in Russian and, pointedly for the outside world, in English, he said Georgia had carried out a “huge act of aggression” and praised Russia as a savior. Then Mr. Gergiev — perhaps the world’s most famous Ossetian — led the Kirov Orchestra of St. Petersburg in what was billed as a memorial concert for the dead in the five-day battle between the two countries. The event gave off a strong whiff of Kremlin propaganda and prompted a flurry of denunciations of Mr. Gergiev for supporting what many in the West saw as the bad actor in the war, Russia, which had intervened with overwhelming force after Georgia’s attack. But three months later Mr. Gergiev remains unrepentant, even proud, of his role. In fact, he says he is vindicated by accounts by independent monitors in an article in The New York Times on Friday, suggesting that Georgia was not acting defensively and had launched an indiscriminate attack, although disputes over who was to blame remain. “That’s what I’m saying for three months,” Mr. Gergiev said on Friday, in a follow-up conversation to a wide-ranging four-hour interview here on Thursday before a concert on the Kirov Orchestra’s American tour, which moves on to Avery Fisher Hall on Sunday and Monday. “I’m not celebrating this. Sooner or later the truth comes out.”

Mr. Gergiev harshly criticized Georgia and its president, Mikheil Saakashvili. He likened its attack to Pearl Harbor, in the sense that many knew it was coming but were shocked when it did, and dismissed his critics as armchair commentators. “The one thing clear was that the regular army, Georgian, bombed the sleeping city,” Mr. Gergiev said. “Everybody recognizes it now. The Georgian president decided obviously to take them by force. If he decided to kill as many civilians as possible, it didn’t matter to him.” Mr. Gergiev brushed aside reports of violence against Georgian villages by Ossetian militias and Russian soldiers. That violence, he said, was to be expected. “It’s the beginning which was so important,” he said of the Georgian attack. “If you decide to open Pandora’s box, then don’t scream there are snakes there.” Georgian officials continue to claim that they acted defensively, citing what they call evidence that Russians were poised to invade and were attacking Georgian villages. Mr. Gergiev, as a famous, world-class conductor, has become one of Russia’s most potent cultural symbols. Like few other musicians, he wields extraordinary power in his country as head of Russia’s musical crown xxxel, the Maryinsky Theater and its ballet, opera and symphony orchestra in St. Petersburg, which tour under the name Kirov.

His words and actions over South Ossetia show the extent to which he is willing to embroil himself in politics, even a murky dispute in which both sides, Russia and Georgia, are fighting a pitched public relations battle over who has the moral high ground. Few other conductors, Daniel Barenboim notably among them, have become so involved in the public realm. Mr. Gergiev’s influence stems from the quality of his music-making but also from the loyalty he attracts from wealthy patrons who avidly follow his concerts, make contributions to his musical causes and put him up in their luxurious homes, like the estate he was staying in here. Mr. Gergiev is also the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and widely in demand as a guest conductor. For the interview on Thursday, which included an early preconcert dinner of giant stone crab legs, Mr. Gergiev had his trademark facial grizzle and the international artist’s uniform of all black: black jeans and black polo shirt. Famous for his frenetic travel schedule and frequent lateness, Mr. Gergiev was relaxed and expansive, never quite answering questions directly but veering into arabesques of discourse before being brought back to the point.

In New York he is presenting a Prokofiev survey in the Great Performers series at Lincoln Center. This Sunday’s program is ballet music, some of it lesser-known, followed by “Romeo and Juliet” on Monday. On Nov. 16, he and the Kirov will present a concert version of the opera “The Love for Three Oranges”; on Nov. 17, film music. Mr. Gergiev returns in March with the London Symphony Orchestra for programs of Prokofiev symphonies and concertos. The idea behind the programming, he said, “is basically to complete the story which is half written.” The first half consisted of six Prokofiev operas Mr. Gergiev conducted in recent years at the Metropolitan Opera and with the Kirov Opera. Now it is time for New Yorkers to hear the lesser-known theater works and movie scores, he said. He will be back next season to lead a three-week Stravinsky festival with the New York Philharmonic. (This is possible only now that he is no longer officially principal guest conductor at the Met, which has a noncompete practice with the Philharmonic.) “I, in a way, am destined to serve this tradition, because that was my tradition,” he said. As part of his frenzied music-making, Mr. Gergiev has given concerts connected to the world’s events: raising funds for the victims of the Beslan tragedy in North Ossetia and of a Japanese earthquake and playing for peace in the Middle East. But his performance in Tskhinvali on Aug. 21 left a sour taste in the mouths of some commentators.

The scene at the concert, witnesses said, was surreal. The area was awash in light amid the blacked-out city. Foreign reporters were hustled in for a quick glimpse. The smoke from burning Georgian villages, set upon by militiamen or possibly Russian troops, rose nearby. The concert was broadcast across Russia, and it evoked the suffering of Russians in World War II through a performance of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, completed during the epic German siege of Leningrad and steeped in nationalist sentiment. “The message is clear,” the commentators Jens F. Laurson and George A. Pieler wrote on Forbes.com. “South Ossetians are innocent victims; the Russian army, their knight in shining armor; and Georgia’s president Mikheil Saakashvili has a metaphorical toothbrush mustache not unlike Adolf Hitler’s.” In response to similar indictments, the London Symphony issued a statement reaffirming its support of Mr. Gergiev. “Morally, I am 100 percent sure I did the right thing,” he said. As for criticism from Westerners? “So what?” he added. “I’m Ossetian.”

[...]

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/08/ar...08gerg.html?hp

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