Medvedev warns of new arms race if missile deal fails

 

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Dmitry Medvedev has warned the West that a new arms race could result from failure to agree on a controversial missile defence shield.

In his annual state of the nation address, Mr Medvedev also lambasted corruption among Russian police and officials and urged families to have more children to avert a demographic crisis.

“In the coming decade we face the following alternatives: either we reach agreement on missile defence and create a fully fledged joint mechanism of co-operation, or a new round of the arms race will begin,” Mr Medvedev told MPs and senators in a glittering Kremlin hall.

“And then we would have to take a decision about the deployment of new offensive weapons. It is clear that this scenario would be very grave.”

Russia and the United States have long sparred over Washington’s desire to deploy a missile defence system in Europe, but President Barack Obama scrapped plans to build radar and missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic as part of a bid to “reset” strained relations with Moscow.

Russia and Nato agreed at a summit this month to study how to develop jointly a new pan-European missile shield, but Moscow’s request for an equal say in the system’s operations would demand an unprecedented level of military and intelligence co-operation.

Mr Medvedev also reiterated the need to fight corruption at all levels in Russia, amid indicators at home and from foreign watchdogs that it has only got worse in recent years.

“The giving and taking of bribes may be punished by fines of up to 100 times the amount of the bribe,” he said, while admitting that “even a 12-year jail sentence is not enough to stop people accepting bribes” and complaining that graft connected to state contracts had grown “beyond all reasonable limits”.

With his country’s ageing population in mind, Mr Medvedev advocated financial rewards for couples who had three children.

Analysts heard little, however, to suggest that Mr Medvedev had escaped the shadow of his mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, or could keep the ex-president out of the Kremlin if he wished to return in 2012 elections.

“There were precious few moments of anything concrete,” said Maria Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Centre.

“This speech maintains the impression that Putin is the leader of deeds and Medvedev is the leader of plans.”