Moscow has strongly opposed the possible deployment by the United States of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic as a threat to its security and nuclear deterrent. Washington says the defenses are needed to deter possible strikes from "rogue states."
Alexander Pikayev, head of the disarmament and conflict resolution department at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of World Economy and International Relations, said there is no way of verifying that the U.S. will really deploy interceptor missiles with conventional warheads.
"These missiles look very much like intermediary and shorter-range ballistic missiles," he said.
He said that if Russian military officers were not given access to U.S. missile-defense facilities in Central Europe, Russia would be unable to verity what types of missiles were located in silos on Polish soil.
"Therefore, we should make a worst-scenario assumption that ballistic missiles with a very short target approach time will be deployed," he said, adding it would be naive to believe that U.S. missile-defense elements will not be included in the list of Russia's legitimate targets.
"This is inevitable, and both the Czech Republic and Poland must know it," the expert said.
President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that Russia would respond to the U.S. missile shield program in Central Europe, adding that Moscow was "dismayed" by the signing of a U.S.-Czech missile deal. He did not specify what steps Russia would take.
A senior military expert said earlier Thursday that Russia could respond to U.S. plans for missile defense bases in Central Europe with a range of measures, including the withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
In an interview with the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily, Col. Gen. Viktor Yesin, a former commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, said Moscow could deploy tactical Iskander-M missiles in the Kaliningrad Region, from where they could reach U.S. ground based interceptors in Poland, and also station there strategic bombers, primarily Tu-22 M3s, armed with long-range cruise missiles.
He said Moscow could also call a stop to the disbanding of a missile division based in the town of Kozelsk, central Russia, in accordance with the U.S.-Russian Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (May 2002), and deploy advanced hypersonic missiles there, which can effectively penetrate missile defenses.