- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Russia’s confirmed launch of a high-tech missile system near the border with Poland and Lithuania is an aggressive act that will destabilize the region, U.S. authorities said.

The deployment was confirmed by Russian defense officials.

“Missile troops and artillery units of the Western Military District are in fact armed with Iskander operational and tactical missile systems,” said Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, to the Russian news agency Itar-Tass.

Included in the Western Military District is the Kaliningrad region — an area that borders both Lithuania and Poland. And the Iskander is a high-speed and mobile ballistic missile system that has a range of 300 miles, NBC News reported.

President Vladimir Putin said it’s a crucial component of Russia’s attempt to offset development of a NATO missile defense system for all of Europe, NBC said.

But officials in the region and in the West said the deployment is of concern.

“Further militarization of this region, bordering the Baltic states and NATO, creates further anxiety and we will be watching the situation there closely,” said Lithuania’s defense minister, Juozas Olekas, The Associated Press reported.

In Washington, D.C., State Department spokesman Marie Herf said in NBC News that U.S. authorities have “shared with Russia the concerns that countries in the neighborhood have” and that “we’ve urged Moscow to take no steps to destabilize the region. We’ve made that point with them.”

Russia, for its part, said the system is defensive only and not intended to show aggression.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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