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US Disappointed Over Russian Missile Pledge

The United States on Wednesday expressed disappointment over an announced Russian plan to deploy short-range ballistic missiles in the Kaliningrad enclave next to Poland. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev says the move is to counter the planned U.S. missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The Bush administration is reiterating that the planned missile defense system would not undercut Russia's strategic deterrence, and says it is disappointed Moscow appears intent on retaliatory action.

The comments follow a Moscow address by Dmitri Medvedev in which he pledged to put new missiles in Russia's Kaliningrad region, which borders Poland and Lithuania.

Russia has depicted the U.S. plan to deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland, and an associated radar system in the Czech Republic as a threat to its security, even though the Bush administration argues that it is intended solely to counter missiles fired by Iran or some other "rogue" states.

In his first state-of-the-nation address, Mr. Medvedev said Wednesday that Russia's Iskander missiles, with a range of nearly 300 kilometers, would be deployed to counter the U.S. interceptors, and that Moscow would also try to electronically jam the system.

Russia had previously threatened retaliation, but Mr. Medvedev's comments were the first tangible sign it will.

At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said he still hopes Moscow realizes that the system is not aimed against Russia.

"Certainly, the Russian action is disappointing," said Sean McCormack. "But I'll say it again, it bears repeating: the missile defense sites in the Czech Republic and Poland are not aimed at Russia. Certainly, the small number of interceptors that will be located at the missile defense site [in Poland] would easily be overwhelmed by the Russian forces. This missile defense site is designed to protect against rogue states, for example Iran, who are working on long-range missile technology."

There were similar comments from the Pentagon, which said the United States has offered Moscow a number of transparency arrangements and briefings to try to mitigate Russian concerns.

State Department Spokesman McCormack said he was unaware of any direct U.S. outreach to President Medvedev on the issue. But he said he expected Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss the matter with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday, when both will be attending a meeting of the Middle East Quartet in Egypt.

Mr. Medvedev's address on Wednesday included broader, harsh criticism of the United States for an alleged selfish foreign policy, and economic blunders, he said, caused the global financial crisis.

The comments surprised some analysts who expected more conciliatory comments the day after the election of a new U.S. president.

However, Mr. Medvedev did send a message to President-elect Barack Obama, saying he hoped for a constructive dialogue with him based on trust and consideration of each other's interests.