MOSCOW – Russia will drop its controversial threat to deploy missiles near Poland in a reaction to shifts in U.S. missile shield plans, a Defense Ministry spokesman said Saturday.
After President Barack Obama decided last week to scrap planned missile facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic, Moscow was expected to follow suit and abandon its threat to deploy Iskander missile systems in the far western Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
“Naturally, we will cancel the measures that Russia planned to take in response to the deployment of U.S. missile defense systems,” Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin said in an interview.
Obama’s move to scrap plans for the missile facilities, which the Kremlin viewed as a menace, removes a stubborn sticking point from U.S.-Russian relations. The timing suggests it might have been intended to woo Moscow into growing more helpful on the issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Russia generally has backed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and been at pains to maintain cordial relations – and considerable trade interests – with Iran.
On Saturday, however, the Russian government sharply criticized Ahmadinejad for calling the Holocaust a “myth.”
“Statements to that effect, no matter where they come from, signify a departure from the truth, and are unacceptable,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said.