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'Calm down,' says Putin, no missiles in west Russian enclave

President Vladimir Putin sought to reassure the West about Russia's military deployments on Thursday, saying Moscow had not yet decided whether to station Iskander missiles in its western enclave of Kaliningrad.

NATO members voiced alarm at reports this week that Russia had already deployed Iskanders in the enclave, which borders alliance members Poland and Lithuania. The missiles have a range of about 400 km (250 miles) and can carry nuclear warheads.

Speaking at an annual news conference, Putin reiterated Moscow's position that an anti-missile shield the United States in building in Europe with help from NATO nations poses a threat to Russia, and that it must respond.

"One of the possible responses is to deploy Iskander complexes in Kaliningrad ... but I want to draw your attention to the fact that we have not yet made this decision yet, let them calm down," the Kremlin leader said.

Nuclear-armed Russia says it fears the anti-missile shield, which is to include interceptor missiles based in Poland, is meant to undermine its security, upsetting the post-Cold War strategic balance.

Interceptors are to be deployed in Poland by 2018 as part of the shield, which is to be completed after 2020. The United States says it is not directed against Russia and is meant to counter potential threats from the Middle East.

Speaking before Putin made his comments, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told French daily Le Monde it would be a waste for Russia to target a non-existent enemy.

"Any deployment of offensive weapons with an undetermined objective is worrying, especially as it does not conform with strategic agreements signed between NATO and Russia in 2010," he said in the interview, published on Thursday.

"Obviously there isn't one NATO nation that has the intention of attacking Russia," Rasmussen said. "Our system is defensive and concerns only external threats. We have shown Russia that this system in no way targets it."

[Source: Reuters, Moscow, 19Dec13]

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