Europe

Russia activates missile early warning radar system

  • 29 November 2011
  • From the section Europe
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits the new Voronezh-DM radar unit in Kaliningrad, 29 November
President Medvedev visited the radar unit

Russia has turned on a new incoming missile early warning system in its westernmost region in response to US plans for a missile shield in Europe.

President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the system to be activated on a visit to the radar unit in Kaliningrad, a Baltic region bordering EU countries.

The unit is equipped with the new Voronezh-DM radar system.

Mr Medvedev has warned Russian missiles could be deployed on the EU's borders if the shield is installed.

Washington wants an anti-missile shield ready by 2020, arguing that it is necessary to provide protection from the potential missile threat posed by countries like Iran.

Under President George W Bush, the US had initially intended to locate major parts of the shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, but Russia objected vigorously.

When Barack Obama took office in the White House, he scaled back the original ambitions.

"Nato's missile defence system [is] designed to defend against threats from outside Europe - not designed to alter balance of deterrence," Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a recent tweet.

Domestic context

In a statement carried by Russian news agencies, Mr Medvedev said: "I expect that this step will be seen by our partners as the first signal of the readiness of our country to make an adequate response to the threats which the missile shield poses for our strategic nuclear forces."

Russia has said it may deploy Iskander ballistic missile launchers in Kaliningrad

Quoted by Interfax, he said: "If our signal is ignored... we will deploy other means of defence including the adoption of tough counter-measures and the deployment of a strike group."

Mr Medvedev has spoken of deploying Iskander missiles - modern versions of the mobile Scud surface-to-surface missile - in Kaliningrad.

On Tuesday, he said Russia was ready to listen to new anti-missile defence proposals from "Western partners" but added that "verbal statements are not enough".

The radar system activated on Mr Medvedev's orders was installed this year at Pionerskoye, Kaliningrad, and is meant to replace older systems in Ukraine and Belarus, according to Russian news website lenta.ru.

With an operating range of 6,000km (3,730 miles), the Voronezh DM can cover "all of Europe and the Atlantic", according to the Russian military.

It is designed to detect space and aerodynamic targets, including ballistic and cruise missiles.

Iran's nuclear programme and its development of long-range missiles have alarmed Western states, despite Tehran's assurances it is not seeking weapons of mass destruction.

One analyst said the decision to activate the system was important but had to be seen in a domestic context.

"Data from this station will allow Russia's leadership to make a decision about a retaliatory nuclear strike, should such a hypothetical need arise," Mikhail Khodaryonok, editor of journal Aerospace Defence, told AFP news agency.

But he described Mr Medvedev's announcement as mainly "pre-election rhetoric" given that both the US missile shield and the Russian system were defensive in nature.

"You would really need to have a vivid imagination to link it to the US missile defence system," the analyst said.

Proposed Nato missile shield

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