Short-range missiles and strategic bombers could be deployed by Moscow in Belarus, in response to a planned United States missile defence system in Europe, warned a Russian diplomat.
The stationing of ten US interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic would threaten Russia’s security, said Alexander Surikov, Russia’s ambassador to Belarus.
Although during a news conference in Minsk, the Belarussian capital, he said that Russia would not send nuclear weapons to Belarus, Mr Surikov indicated that if the US goes ahead with its plans, the Russian military could consider deploying short-range Iskander missiles or strategic bombers.
“The military could consider action to counter the missile defence. That includes Iskander missile systems and strategic bombers in Belarus and Kaliningrad”, said Mr Surikov.
Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave situated between Poland and Lithuania.
Conventional or nuclear warheads
In the early 1990s, Belarus, an ally and neighbour of Russia, handed over its Soviet-era nuclear arsenal to Moscow.
Mr Surikov’s warning echoed one from a Russian general who said last November that Iskander missiles could be sent to Belarus.
Even though the site in the Czech Republic is likely to be out of reach if Russia placed such missiles in Belarus, as it borders Poland, the planned US missile defences there would be within firing range.
Russian strategic bombers can be equipped to carry conventional weapons, just like Iskander missiles can be fitted with conventional or nuclear warheads.
US assurances that the sites are intended to fend off missile threats from Iran have been rejected by Russia, who said that they will threaten the country’s nuclear deterrent.