A lot of ink has been spilled discussing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's November 5 welcome gift to U.S. President-elect Barack Obama -- the threat to deploy
Iskander tactical missile batteries to Kaliningrad Oblast in response to a proposed U.S. missile-defense system. The shortcomings of the Iskander as a counter to the U.S. system have been thoroughly enumerated
Today's "Nezavisimaya gazeta"
went one step further, arguing that not only would the missile systems not be effective, but that Russia is not even in a position to deploy them within "the next four or five years." The system is still in the testing phase and the infrastructure for producing the five brigades the military has asked for is not in place. The daily also notes that no foreign country has yet purchased the system's export version, meaning that no Iskanders have seen service anywhere in the world.
Medvedev's announcement increasingly looks like a pander to the military-industrial complex rather than a sensible national-security decision. The Defense Ministry has been clamoring for the Iskander for years and now the new "threat" from the West seems like a handy excuse to get the program off the dime. And Medvedev's speech comes just in the nick of time, given that the Obama administration is widely expected to be skeptical of the missile-defense initiative.
In the meantime, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov told journalists today
that the global financial crisis is hitting the defense industry hard. One way or another, the military seems likely to get its piece of the bailout pie.
-- Robert Coalson