Russia to halt Iskander deployment to Kaliningrad

Iskander missilesMoscow - Russia halted plans to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, citing a shift in US policy on missile defence with US President Barack Obama, a top military official was quoted by news agency Interfax as saying on Wednesday.

"Russia doesn't need the Iskander missiles if there won't be any US missile defence elements in Eastern Europe," the agency cited the unnamed official in Russia's military general staff as saying.

"The realization of these plans has been suspended in connection with the fact that that the new US administration is not forging ahead with plans to deploy US missile defence elements in Poland and the Czech Republic," he was quoted as saying.

On the day after Obama's election in November, President Dmitry Medvedev upped the ante in Russia and the United States' standoff over missile defence announcing plans to base the Iskander missiles in its European exclave of Kaliningrad to counter the shield.

Washington says the missile defence shield is needed to protect against strikes from rogue states such as Iran, but Moscow views the planned bases in eastern Europe as a threat to its deterrent.

Russia's diplomatic ties with the administration of former US President George W Bush fell to their most sensitive level since the Cold War over the shield and a host of other security issues.

But Russian officials have voiced hope of better relations with Obama's team.

"We are ready to any succession of events, but we hope that there will be a window of opportunity to restart of our relations," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday in televised comments.

"Statements by representatives of new US administration allow to us to hope that they will be more ready to engage in joint analytical work, in contrast with the previous administration," Lavrov said.

Ahead of Obama's inauguration, a nominee for a top pentagon post said that missile shield plan would be reviewed along with other policy matters. (dpa)