Russia's envoy to NATO has poured cold water on an offer by Moldova's unrecognized republic of Transdnestr to deploy Russian missile defense elements.
Transdnestr leader Igor Smirnov confirmed Monday that his republic would deploy elements of a Russian missile defense system if Moscow asked. Media reports said earlier that Tiraspol had asked Moscow to set up a missile defense system in Transdnestr to counter U.S. plans to deploy a missile shield in Romania.
Russia's envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said Transdnestr's move to deploy Russian Iskander missiles could lead to a serious regional conflict, and added that there could be no talk yet of bilateral efforts to "reset" Russian-U.S. relations if Moscow continues to hear the United States' plans to deploy missiles in Romania from mass media.
"This situation could lead to a rather serious regional argument or even a political conflict. In regard to whether Iskanders should be deployed there or not, Iskander [missiles are] not a means to be used in such talks," he said.
"How can we talk of a true partnership with Washington if we read unpleasant news in newspapers," Rogozin said.
Russian experts have said Moscow should not react to Smirnov's proposal as Transdnestr is just playing a beneficial political card, and Moldova's Foreign Ministry said the country hopes Russia will discuss all these issues with Chisinau.
The Russian-speaking province of Transdnestr has maintained de facto independence from Moldova since a brief war in 1992, which was the culmination of tensions following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Russia has had peacekeepers in the region since July 1992.
A U.S. State Department official said earlier the facilities in Romania are to become operational by 2015 and are designed as protection against "current and emerging ballistic missile threats from Iran."
The planned deployment in Romania comes after U.S. President Barack Obama scrapped Bush administration plans for a radar and interceptor missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland, which Russia fiercely opposed as a national security threat.
Obama announced on September 17, 2009 that Washington would not deploy missile-defense elements in the Czech Republic and Poland due to a re-assessment of the threat from Iran.
Following Obama's announcement, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he decided against deploying Iskander missiles in Russia's Kaliningrad Region, which Russia had threatened to do if the U.S. went ahead with plans to deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station the Czech Republic.
MOSCOW, February 16 (RIA Novosti)