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Medvedev's Preemptive Strike Against Obama

Russia President Dmitry Medvedev
Russia President Dmitry Medvedev
As far as the Kremlin is concerned, U.S. President-elect Barack Obama will not be enjoying any honeymoon.

Just hours after Obama's election victory, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev delivered his state-of-the-nation speech to a joint session of Russia's parliament. In his 90-minute address, the Kremlin leader pointedly failed to congratulate Obama on his landmark win, and in fact did not even mention him by name. (Medvedev did send Obama a congratulatory telegram, however.)

Medvedev laid down a big marker for the junior senator from Illinois and soon-to-be 44th president of the United States. In his speech, the Russian leader vowed to place Iskander short-range missiles in the Kaliningrad region -- which borders NATO members Lithuania and Poland -- to "neutralize" a proposed U.S. missile-defense system in Europe.

Speaking to the French AFP news agency, the respected Moscow-based defense analyst Aleksandr Goltz called the move "an attempt to inflict maximum damage on U.S.-Russian relations." Goltz went on to call the move "a cardinal change" in Moscow's posture toward Europe.

"I have no rational explanation for why this came less than 24 hours after the election of a new US president," Golts said. "Even in Soviet times they refrained from such harsh reactions."

During the U.S. election campaign, Vice President-elect Joe Biden famously said that America's foes will most likely try to "test" Obama's "mettle" in the first six months of his presidency. Obama doesn't take office until January 20, and analysts say there is a chance for a thaw in what has been a very icy relationship of late.

But apparently Medvedev is eager to get a head start in setting a confrontational tone.

-- Brian Whitmore

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