MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin sought to reassure the West about Russia’s military movements on Thursday, saying Moscow had not yet decided whether to deploy Iskander missiles near NATO nations in the western exclave of Kaliningrad.
NATO nations and officials of the Western alliance voiced alarm over recent reports that Russia had deployed Iskanders, which have a range of about 400 km (250 miles) and can carry nuclear warheads, in the region bordering Poland and Lithuania.
Speaking at an annual news conference, Putin reiterated Moscow’s position that an anti-missile shield the United States in building in Europe with help from NATO nations poses a threat to Russia and that it must respond.
“One of the possible responses is to deploy Iskander complexes in Kaliningrad … but I want to draw your attention to the fact that we have not yet made this decision yet, let them calm down.”
Nuclear-armed Russia says it fears the anti-missile shield, which is to include interceptor missiles based in Poland, is meant to undermine its security, upsetting the post-Cold War strategic balance.
The United States says it is not directed against Russia and is meant to counter potential threats from the Middle East.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Elizabeth Piper)