Russians Threaten Polish Border With Missiles
Russia escalated its war of words with Europe yesterday when Sergei Ivanov, the first deputy prime minister, threatened to deploy missiles in the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, which borders Poland and Lithuania.

Mr Ivanov, a Kremlin hawk seen as President Vladimir Putin's favoured successor, said this would become necessary if the United States rejected Russia's proposal for the location of a missile defence shield.

The United States wants to build a radar station in the Czech Republic to guide interceptor missiles based in Poland. The Bush administration says this purely defensive system would do nothing more than shoot down any missile launched from a rogue state, probably Iran.

But Russia opposes locating the shield in Poland or the Czech Republic. Both countries were Soviet satellite states during the Cold War and Moscow bitterly resents their accession to NATO and the EU.

Mr Putin has suggested basing the missile defence system at a Russian radar station in Azerbaijan. Mr Ivanov, a former defence minister, urged the United States to agree.

"If our proposals are accepted, the need will disappear for Russia to deploy new missile weaponry in the European part of the country, including in Kaliningrad region," he said, while on a visit to Uzbekistan.

"After this, you will forget about the term 'Cold War'. It will simply disappear. There simply won't be cause for speaking of it." Mr Ivanov, who served in the KGB during the Cold War, added: "If our proposals are not accepted - and I cannot rule that out - an asymmetrical and effective response has been found."

Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave covering less than 200 square miles sandwiched between the Baltic Sea and Poland and Lithuania. Formerly East Prussia, it was captured by the Red Army and became part of Russia in 1945.

While Kaliningrad has been a key military base for decades and the headquarters of Russia's Baltic fleet, it would have little use as a location for missiles. Under the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty signed in 1987, the United States and Russia have eliminated medium-range missiles.

At present, Moscow does not possess any nuclear missiles capable of hitting a European target from Kaliningrad.

Russia's armed forces are developing the Iskander short-range missile, which could deliver a nuclear warhead to a target in Poland or Lithuania from Kaliningrad. But technical difficulties have plagued the programme and no missiles are yet operational.

Military observers say that Mr Ivanov's words could be an empty threat. His real aim might be to intimidate Poland and the Czech Republic into refusing to allow America to site the missile defence system on their territory.

Mr Bush met Mr Putin last weekend for a summit in Maine, an event hailed as marking an improvement in relations. But Mr Ivanov's latest words indicate the depth of distrust felt by the two countries.