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Russia could abandon its plans to place short-range missiles
Russia could abandon its plans to place short-range missiles in the Kaliningrad Region if the new U.S. administration reverses its decision to deploy a missile shield in Central Europe, the president said.

As an "asymmetric" response to the missile shield, President Dmitry Medvedev announced last week the possible deployment of Iskander-M short-range missile systems in the Kaliningrad exclave, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.

"We could reconsider this response if the new U.S. administration is ready to once again review and analyze all the consequences of its decisions to deploy the missiles and radar facilities, and to analyze their effectiveness along with a number of other factors, including how appropriate these means are as a response to the threat from the so-called rogue states," Medvedev said in an interview with France's Figaro newspaper published on Thursday.

The Russian president said the signals so far from president-elect Barack Obama's transition team indicate Washington's willingness to consider a compromise on the issue.

"The first reaction we have seen from the incoming U.S. administration gives us grounds for hope. In any event, our future partners are reflecting on how useful and effective this system could be, and so it seems that we do have something to discuss. We are ready for talks, and at the same time we are also ready for the 'Zero Option'," Medvedev said.

The term Zero Option was first used in the early 1980s to refer to Ronald Reagan's offer to the Soviet Union for the mutual withdrawal of nuclear missiles from Europe.

Russia believes that a security agreement based on respect for common interests would remove the need for a U.S. missile shield in central Europe, and consequently the need for tactical missiles to be stationed in Russia's western exclave.

"This would be a completely acceptable way out of this situation. Moreover, we are ready to continue work on the idea of a global defense system in which the United States, the European Union member states, and the Russian Federation would all take part," the president said.

Washington said last Thursday it had provided new proposals to ease Russia's concerns over the planned deployment of 10 U.S. interceptor missiles in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic, which the Bush administration has said are needed to counter possible attacks from "rogue" states such as Iran.

Russia, which says the missile defense system is a threat to its national security, has indicated it will not address the U.S. proposals until after Barack Obama is inaugurated as U.S. president in January.

The U.S. embassy in Moscow announced on Wednesday that Russia and the United States had agreed to resume talks on strategic security and missile defense in December.

U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns discussed arrangements for the upcoming meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this month.

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