November 23rd, 2011
05:06 PM ET

New roadblock in 'reset' with Russia

By Jill Dougherty and Jamie Crawford

It feels like a blast from the past: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatening to station short-range missiles in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Poland.

Medvedev is miffed that the West is not taking Russia's concerns into consideration as it proceeds with plans to deploy a missile defense system in Europe that the United States and NATO insist is to protect from potential missile attack from Iran.

They even say they want Russia to work with them on the system but, in a live television broadcast, Medvedev told Russians: "We will not agree to take part in a program that, in a short while, in some six to eight years' time, could weaken our nuclear deterrent capability."

Russia, the president announced somberly, could deploy weapons "ensuring our ability to take out any part of the U.S. missile defense system in Europe. One step in this process will be to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad Region."

And he went a step further, threatening to pull out of the New START arms control agreement, which he and President Barack Obama signed with such fanfare just a year and a half ago.

Medvedev's comments drew a sigh of frustration from the White House, the State Department and NATO.

"We've been clear, all along, for many years now, that this system is NOT directed against Russia," Mark Toner, State Department Deputy spokesman insisted.

The National Security Council's spokesman, Tommy Vietor, issued a statement saying "Implementation of the New START Treaty is going well and we see no basis for threats to withdraw from it."

NATO's secretary general bemoaned the Russian president's announcement, calling it "deeply disappointing" and referring to "old suspicions."

Medvedev wants a legal guarantee from the Obama administration that the system is not aimed at Russia but the Obama administration has made it clear that won't fly. Even it Obama took that step, the Senate would be unlikely to ratify it. So the administration says the Russian president's threat won't succeed in forcing Washington to change its plans to deploy the missile defense program.

Medvedev still calls Barack Obama a "partner" but his tough words throw that partnership - and the administration's famous "reset" with Russia - into doubt. It also comes at a time when Obama has never needed Russia's help more, on challenges including Iran, Syria, North Korea and Afghanistan.

So why is Medvedev rocking the boat now? Steven Pifer, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and arms control expert, points to politics - in Russia.

"I think you have to look at the context," he says. "It seems to me this is not aimed at NATO, this is aimed at the Russian domestic audience with a view to the parliamentary elections there in seven days time. Just as in America beating up on Russia is always good in politics, in Russia taking a hard line against the U.S. and NATO always plays very well with the electorate."

Moscow, Pifer thinks, would never consider actually pulling out of the New START agreement. It's important to them, he says, because they are retiring a lot of old missiles and START "is their vehicle to ensure that U.S. forces come down at the same time."

Ironically, if Russia could get beyond the demand for a legal guarantee on the missile defense system, "there is a fairly open path to NATO-Russia missile defense cooperation" which could give Russia a voice in how to shape the architecture of missile defense, Pifer says.

Medvedev is in the last months of his presidency. In March of next year Russians will go to the polls to elect a new president, and the leading candidate is Vladimir Putin, known for taking a harder line than Medvedev.

Could this mean even more trouble for the "reset?"

Pifer says, "I think you'll get the same strategic line from the Russians, though Putin is perhaps a bit more suspicious...more skeptical about U.S. intentions then Medvedev is, so there will be perhaps that change in tone."

The reset may not be over but it could be headed for some stormy weather.

Filed under: Russia • Security Clearance on TV
soundoff (278 Responses)
  1. JJ

    the only person who believed that relations were reset was the inexperienced, naive obama...

    November 25, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Reply
  2. SteveHC

    "Medvedev told Russians: 'We will not agree to take part in a program that, in a short while, in some six to eight years' time, could weaken our nuclear deterrent capability.' – This statement of Medvedev's is pretty crazy and downright illogical. Does he REALLY think Russia needs a nuclear deterrent to a nuclear attack from EUROPE? That's just plain laughable. Interestingly, the article's author suggests that Russian politicians play to a supposed "anti-American" sentiment among Russian voters and that American politicians play to a supposed "anti-Russian" sentiment among American voters – when in fact no such sentiments exist among the electorate of EITHER countries! And to think that Russia claimed at one time (at least) to have wanted to join NATO... how can they possibly have ever hoped to have joined an organization who's pre-existing membership top members of the Russian government don't even trust to begin with? One can only assume that Russia's objection to the emerging European missile defense system has a LOT more to do with Russia's TOO-close relationship with IRAN than anything else.

    November 25, 2011 at 12:14 am | Reply
  3. MightyMo

    First, no one has even considered all of this hooplah over a defensive shield that doesn't even work. Second, we're on our last legs as a power. We spent ourselves into last place when bush and his crew of criminals had a ten year war without paying for any of it. 10, that's ten, a decade of war and a superpower couldn't really make any significant change in Iraq or Afghanistan, they are still Iraq and Afghanistan.

    November 24, 2011 at 9:39 am | Reply
    • JJ

      didnt know you wre an engineer, and were privy to classified dont know if it works or not......and it does...

      November 25, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Reply
  4. JB

    Now the darn publish button is in spanish. Are we required to write our comments in spanish also?

    November 24, 2011 at 9:23 am | Reply
    • Boris Kalashnikov

      Bilingual is the latest craze.

      November 24, 2011 at 9:31 am | Reply
  5. JB

    Here we go again, Mines bigger that yours.

    November 24, 2011 at 9:17 am | Reply
  6. Me

    I issue a threat to RUSSIA/STAN'ville, Don't make threats when you have ZERO capability of doing anything about...anything!

    November 24, 2011 at 9:13 am | Reply
    • YouBetcha

      Me – what a thoughtless comment. Have you ANY idea of Russia's military capability? No, thought not. They have been updating ALL their capabilities for the last few years and could probably take you with no problem!

      America is no longer a real superpower. Russia under Putin who WHEN, not if, he is elected was a hard line communist and WILL lead a superpower. He has already said he will declare himself a "President for life" So you need to be aware that....." the times they are a changin' " To America and the world's detriment..

      I'm not anti-American, far from it. But I'm not so daft as to think you can save ANYONE while in your current sad state. Sorry.

      November 24, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Reply
  7. Boris Kalashnikov

    What do you do when you see a flash?

    November 24, 2011 at 9:02 am | Reply
    • JB

      Assume the position and kiss it goodbye.

      November 24, 2011 at 9:18 am | Reply
    • Boris Kalashnikov

      Duck and Cover.

      November 24, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  8. giglytooth9

    I'm sure the US would not mind if Russia set up a defense shield on Cuba and Haiti

    November 24, 2011 at 8:59 am | Reply
    • Jackc

      Another idiot surfaces. The shield is because of Iran, what would one be in for in Cuba you moron./

      November 24, 2011 at 9:12 am | Reply
    • SteveHC

      – Have you forgotten that we (the U.S.) have a military base ON Cuba??? – How's THAT for a bizarre fact?!

      November 25, 2011 at 12:17 am | Reply
  9. neverwas

    ah is somebody trying to be relevant again? how cute.

    November 24, 2011 at 8:36 am | Reply
  10. Lenny

    Kaliningrad is an exclave, not an enclave. Get your facts straight CNN.

    November 24, 2011 at 8:35 am | Reply
    • Youguys R. Killinme

      You're kidding, right? We're probably lucky it wasn't spelled "ONclave."


      November 24, 2011 at 9:09 am | Reply
  11. Dreamer96

    The missile sheild for NATO can be overwhelmed, it can not take several missiles fired at once...It's only for a ruge state like Iran, that does not have a lot of missiles...The Russians know that....It will not defend NATO from a Russian attack...Everybody understands that....

    November 24, 2011 at 8:27 am | Reply
    • SteveHC

      – EXACTLY!!!

      November 25, 2011 at 12:20 am | Reply
  12. Jeffo

    Russia is stonewalling because they have "advisers" in Iran. Of course they're going to object to anything that will put pressure on them. China simply hates us, so they won't play ball with anything that we are involved in.

    November 24, 2011 at 8:10 am | Reply
    • SteveHC

      "Russia is stonewalling because they have 'advisers' in Iran." – Again, EXACTLY! And not just "advisors" – Russia sells a LOT of armaments to Iran and has many *other* financial ties to that country as well. But China does NOT "hate us" – they simply want to be able to continue to make money off of us (and Europe), want solid assurances that we can pay back our debt to them, and want to be able to truly feel that the rest of the world respects them as a global superpower (militarily and otherwise) – pride and respect is IMPORTANT to the Chinese... the latter of which they unwittingly undermine every time they try to intimidate other countries in Asia and the South China Sea (they seem to be pretty DUMB – literally – in this matter).

      November 25, 2011 at 12:28 am | Reply
  13. Dimitry

    I'm looking for Russia to launch some 100 nuclear Topol-M missiles to Amerika and completely annihilate Amerika once and for all.

    November 24, 2011 at 8:07 am | Reply
    • ynuk

      Yam head, you also have Russians living in America....and it is not AmeriKa, but AmeriCa. Go learn english!

      November 24, 2011 at 8:19 am | Reply
      • Uh, Yeah

        I think that is Dimitrys attempt at sarcasm, that apparently went well over your head.

        November 24, 2011 at 8:37 am |
      • Youguys R. Killinme


        I think that over-their-head thing is called a "sar-chasm."

        November 24, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • TRH

      I think he knows the difference in the spelling. His misspelling was intentional.

      November 24, 2011 at 8:30 am | Reply
    • Ronald Reagan

      Bring it on we will spank you like we did in the kold war.

      November 24, 2011 at 8:45 am | Reply
      • Dimitry

        @Ronald Reagan: I can assure you this time the war will not be "cold". In fact Amerika will become so hot from nuclear explosions that its mushroom clouds will be seen from space.

        November 24, 2011 at 8:49 am |
      • YouBetcha

        You reckon??????/

        November 24, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • SteveHC

      "Dimitry" – I have NEVER met even ONE Russian citizen who has EVER felt any of the animosity or ill will towards the U.S. or its citizens that you profess to have in your post. NONE. You're expressed views are DEFINITELY not Russian mainstream views. The FACT of the matter is that Russia, Canada, the U.S. and Europe would ALL do best to enter into comprehensive and DEEP mutual defense, anti-terrorism, economic and trade agreements with each other. None of us can continue to afford (financially) to do it all alone or separately – it's just too expensive. And Russia has the natural resources, labor force and SPACE that we can ALL benefit from. The problem with accomplishing this is actually Russia's historical fear of CHINA – which is why Russia has as of late entered into more economic and other business relationships with China – in the hope that it would diminish Chinese-Russian tensions (which it HAS). But I truly believe that if Russia, Canada, the US and Europe entered into such a new, giant and DEEPLY cooperative allied block, that we all collectively COULD and WOULD find a way to reassure China and give them the space and time it needs to continue to educate its populace and expand its own internal economy and business-related arrangements with the rest of Asia – especially if such a Russian-US-Canadian-European "block" offered China substantial and TRULY meaningful anti-terrorism support. Regardless, Russian-American ties and mutual friendship have historically been (and to some extent still are) MUCH stronger than *you* seem to realize or be aware of. Russia and the US should be BEST friends; we have far too much in common with each other to have our relationship be anything OTHER than best friends. I'm THOROUGHLY convinced this will happen when a) the elected officials STOP the crazy and VERY wasteful "cold war" B.S. attitudes and "spying" that they still; try to engage in towards each other and pawn off on their citizens (who don't "buy" ANY of it), and b) the Arctic becomes more fully navigable as global warming progresses (among other things).

      November 25, 2011 at 12:48 am | Reply
  14. Pete

    It must be election times in Russia. This is all just a talk.

    November 24, 2011 at 7:56 am | Reply
    • Lenny

      Yep, December 4th, in fact. And then Presidential ones in March.

      November 24, 2011 at 8:37 am | Reply
    • YouBetcha

      If that's what floats your boat, just you keep on believing it. You seem to be quoting Pifer rather than thinking for yourself.
      I say – watch Russia like a hawk.

      November 24, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Reply
  15. SixDegrees

    They aren't worried about the system being deployed against Russia. That's a smoke screen. They're trying to intervene of behalf of Iran, their former quasi-client state. Russia is also actively aiding Iran's development of nuclear weapons, because Russia would like nothing better than to ring Europe with allies and subjugates ready to act at Russia's behest.

    November 24, 2011 at 7:47 am | Reply
    • YouBetcha

      Now that is a thought provoking type of comment I can live with SixDegrees ! Thank you and well said.

      November 24, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Reply
    • SteveHC

      – I agree 100%. The US and Europe need to find ways to help Russia wean itself off of its economic reliance on Iran.

      November 25, 2011 at 12:53 am | Reply
  16. Titian

    Ah yes the good ol' days. Bring back SAC (Strategic Air Command). Sure miss that ol' 1950's SAC indoctrination when I got to watch Slim Pickens and Doctor Strange Love. This new kinder, gentler Air Force configuration is bullsh$t. If its anything like Uncle Thad Alan's post moderation configured Coast Guard I'm certain its inefficient as well with lost continuity.

    November 24, 2011 at 7:09 am | Reply
  17. Jimmy-James

    Anything that is against the spread of nuclear arms is FOR the spread of nuclear arms. If Russia is upset that the US might stop an nuclear attack against the US then Russia is FOR a nuclear attack against the US. Diplomacy fail.

    November 24, 2011 at 6:35 am | Reply
  18. Wildone

    Welcome to the return of the Cold War. Okay children. Everybody under their desks.

    November 24, 2011 at 5:18 am | Reply
    • mikey3


      November 24, 2011 at 7:36 am | Reply
      • Jeffo

        You're an idiot. Go back to Chihuahua, you PUTA.

        November 24, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • mikey3


      November 24, 2011 at 7:37 am | Reply
      • herbsouder

        Uh mikey3 can i get an order of tacos and tequila? love ya man.sincerely your friend gringo.

        November 24, 2011 at 8:29 am |
      • YouBetcha

        When people resort to filth and abuse in capitals you know that they are:-

        educationally challenged
        social misfits
        emotional cripples

        Or all four. This debate is no place for you. Sorry

        November 24, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  19. Neurotoxin

    I don't know what Medvedev's endgame is, but it certainly isn't the parliamentary elections – that's just silly. Ukraine has actual elections, but Russia's are completely and unapologetically rigged. United Russia (Putin/Medvedev's Party) controls a parliamentary supermajority and owns every bureaucrat that administrates the elections. It has also, by a variety of legislative and bureaucratic tricks, banned from elections or regulated away every opposition party. The parties that hold the few seats that don't belong to United Russia are its satellite parties – the Communist Party and Vladimir Zhirinovskiy's National Democrats, neither of which does anything to oppose United Russia. Medvedev has no reason to worry about the parliamentary elections. If there is any opposition he is trying to appeal to, it's the heads of the military who are at perpetual odds with Putin's KGB clique, or regional tycoons in far reaches of Russia who've been trying to thwart Moscow's rule unsuccessfully for years.

    November 24, 2011 at 5:02 am | Reply
    • Steve

      Putin will later use this as another reason for the Eurasian Union. Unlike the European Union, the Eurasian Union will be joined idealogically and millitarily.

      November 24, 2011 at 6:07 am | Reply
      • SteveHC

        – I think there might be an element of truth to what you say. But what they fail to realize is the *fact* that even within Russia the Asian and European populations not only have virtually NOTHING in common with each other, they actually have a LOT of downright ANIMOSITY towards each other. Russia's Europeans tend to view Russian Asians as "dirty," uneducated, and generally inferior... while Russia's Asians tend to view themselves as the (often times very real) victims of Russian Europeans' racial bigotry, prejudice and hatred – SOUND FAMILIAR, AMERICANS??? Yes, Russia has its own very real racial "tensions." The whole idea of Eurasian "unity" doesn't seem to be practically achievable, atv least not in any of OUR lifetimes.

        November 25, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  20. Shawn Irwin

    If Americans were a little more intelligent and less fear-driven, less superstitious, less ignorant religio-fanatics, we would never have fallen for Bin Ladin's ruse . . . he said his goal was to destroy the American economy . . . you know the little pin pricks that make the huge giant flail about until he is to tired to fight . . . but none of our idiot government leaders listened, even when Bin Laden said it openly that that was his goal . . . so look where we are now.
    America has been jumping at any chance to go to war for a long time, and has been at war more than any other nation on the planet . . . . and nearly every American thinks it is justifiable war, the America is all-powerful. Kind of like Nazi Germany before their fall. America has been trying to take the place of the UN, has been disregarding international law for a long time, and sooner or later Russia and China will say enough is enough. If the US economy collapses, and it already is a house of cards, waging more wars will not be so easy. Unilateralism looks to much like imperialism, and in many cases IS imperialism.

    November 24, 2011 at 4:58 am | Reply
    • L Johnson

      Shawn you have nailed it but you have not added the fact that we are the youngest nation on the block and it is as if we are picking a fight with every big guy on the block, and have to ask to what end, we are already a world power but we are not satisfied with just wining we want to dominate.
      Look at a country like China, dogs are our pets they eat dogs now ask yourself what in their history would have made them turn on what we regard as pets these people are survivors. Look at Russia and their own callous disregard to their own, look at their own lasting legacy (communism) these people have weathered many storms, and the list of peculiarities goes on.
      In our case we are deluded into thinking that we are still a world power yet if we should stop and ask where are the most advance elements of mankind. not here in USA but China, Japan, even India. all we have is life after Steve Jobs.
      I think we have a skewed agenda an its not about The American life or the white picket fence. I would not even be surprised if we end up reliving the first 30 years of the 20th century all over gain and this time we might be the bad guys.

      November 24, 2011 at 7:04 am | Reply
    • goneballistic

      Actually, we end up at war because many, if not most of our so called "allies" did not learn their lesson from WWII. They prefer appeasement. Or, as in the case of Pakistan, they nurture and protect our enemies.
      Our Euro allies had been profiting for decades from instability and war in the middle east. This is why the UN would not pressure Iraq to comply. Too many were making money on "Food for Oil" and the like. When we invaded Iraq, we upset the Euro applecart. That is why they were so upset, the Euros lost their bloodmoney income.
      The US is definitely losing influence overseas and that could be a good thing. It will be interesting to see how a world power China deals with Europe when Europe doesn't immediately fall into line with China's dictum.

      November 24, 2011 at 7:33 am | Reply
      • L Johnson

        Their is some truth in what you have blogged but are our leaders stupid enough to be the fuel for this folly. because the big picture would be that while our conservative ostriches play with our lives patriotic fervor and crocodile tears not withstanding (not their own because of their financial and socio political insulation ) what are we common unwashed supposed to do when the proverbial feces hit the fan and they all head for their bunkers.

        November 24, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • glenda bowen

      This was well said. I wish more people felt and thought this way.

      November 24, 2011 at 7:50 am | Reply
    • TRH

      And I'll reinforce your observations by mentioning the recent Republican debate. All except for Huntsman and Paul are Neocons. I thought Romney was gonna cry when he started talking about the cuts in defense spending.

      November 24, 2011 at 8:47 am | Reply
  21. grammar nazi

    "more skeptical about U.S. intentions then Medvedev is" then? It should be THAN.

    November 24, 2011 at 4:58 am | Reply

    I'm surprised countries like Russia even feel threatened. Are we going to have another Cuban Missile Crisis type situation again with a threat of nuclear war? I hope our governments are just bluffing. Nuclear war would be too catastrophic to both sides.

    Perhaps the Russian government was planning something and the United States caught on to them so missiles were deployed with the guise of missile defense along with that recent hypersonic UAV test and now the Russian government is panicking?

    I can't imagine the United States trying to start a war with Russia when the United States is struggling financially.

    In a war without nukes, I'm sure Russia and their allies would smash the United States. Unfortunately, if a war breaks out it probably won't be nuke-free.

    November 24, 2011 at 4:36 am | Reply
    • SteveHC

      – Russia and the U.S. have actually NEVER been at war with each other – nor will we *ever* be. The whole idea was politically and diplomatically concocted B.S. that played upon "national pride" that emanated from our two countries' colonial and imperial days. It's time for the citizens of BOTH countries to pressure our "leaders" to KNOCK IT OFF altogether already and to stop thinking that we're all as DUMB and naive as they seem to think we are.

      November 25, 2011 at 1:13 am | Reply
  23. abel mendoza

    Do it dude, we don't we you, never did. USA will always be the super power.

    November 24, 2011 at 4:28 am | Reply
    • David Miller

      And all id!ots would agree with you.

      November 24, 2011 at 8:53 am | Reply
  24. Peter Q Wolfe

    Why can't Europe defend itself for a change? I mean honestly this is always ridiculous in bailing out the failed European state.

    November 24, 2011 at 4:02 am | Reply
    • covin

      USA asked European countries to host its missile system, not the other way around

      so maybe a little more gratitude and less attitude

      November 24, 2011 at 5:36 am | Reply
    • SixDegrees

      Mostly because there is no such thing as "Europe" in terms of a cohesive national entity. Left to it's own devices, Europe would rapidly return to squabbling and warring amongst it's constituent nations, just as they did for centuries leading up to WWI and WWII. Now, with the US largely responsible for their defense, they've dismantled their militaries and just squabble. Allowing them to arm themselves again would be extremely disruptive to world peace and stability.

      November 24, 2011 at 7:52 am | Reply
      • SteveHC

        – ABSOLUTELY! The European countries, out of a bizarre and self-defeating sense of each one's "national pride," have CONTINUED to be opposed to a TRUE unification into one united Country of Europe. Out of a tacit recognition of this fact, many European "leaders" instead decided to pursue the concept of the Eurozone, Economic Union, and the creation of the "Euro" monetary denomination – with the hope that that would somehow *eventually* evolve in a more truly unified European government. In other words, they settled for going about the whole thing BACKWARDS, when they SHOULD'VE united into one national government *first* and THEN created a new national currency! That's one of the reasons why London said "thanks but no thanks." If Europe REALLY wants the respect and economic stability that it claims it wants it will have to find a way to TRULY unify itself POLITICALLY and GOVERNMENTALLY – maybe something like the way the Canadian Provinces found a way to unify themselves under one national government. Until then, how can the rest of the world be expected to take Europe really seriously? It isn't going to happen merely because the US's financial institutions have unwittingly decided to (ignorantly) tie their businesses to those in Europe, THAT'S for sure! If anything, the US financial institutions now need to find a way to DISENTANGLE themselves from Europe's!!!

        November 25, 2011 at 1:35 am |
  25. dupree

    All this debate is pretty interesting. Aside from the peeing match happening here, I think we also need to consider Iran's relationship with Russia. It's quite different than with (USA).

    November 24, 2011 at 3:12 am | Reply
  26. MMM


    So if you are so mad, then why don't you kill yourself?

    November 24, 2011 at 3:06 am | Reply
  27. mm

    And just think...we have to depend on these Russians to bring the folks back and forth from the space station. What!

    November 24, 2011 at 3:04 am | Reply
    • dupree


      November 24, 2011 at 3:13 am | Reply
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