14 November 2007: for immediate release

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has responded with great concern to the suggestion that Russia may deploy Iskander short-range conventional missiles in Belarus. This possibility clearly demonstrates the hugely destabilising effects of the US intention to site Missile Defence bases in Europe.

The comments [see note 2] that “Any action inevitably causes a reaction” made by General Vladimir Zaritsky, head of Russia’s artillery and missile forces, are the latest in a string of announcements that risk undoing many of the arms control measures put in place late in the Cold War and since. Russia has strongly objected to the placement of interceptor rockets in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic.

The Iskander is a short range missile, which in general can be thought of as similar to an upgraded, more manoeuvrable ‘SCUD’ missile. It is able to deliver a 480 kg (1,058 lb) conventional payload within a range of up to 400 km (250 miles), though the General also noted that the range could be increased if Russia chose to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

The developments came as the US Missile Defence Agency announced it was confident that the $85m slashed from its budget allocation by the US Congress would not hinder developments. The funds had been earmarked for constructing the missile base in Poland. The outgoing Polish government had also requested the US install Patriot short-range interceptors as part of any deal. It is thought that the new Polish administration will want an even greater level of military equipment as a sweetener.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “CND has long been warning that US proposals are leading us towards a new Cold War. This statement is yet another indication that this prediction is unfortunately coming true. We don’t need more missiles in Europe, whether they are deployed by Putin in Belarus or Bush in Poland. Britain must work to retain all existing arms control measures and held reduce tensions not exacerbate them. The British Government should be opposing US plans and rejecting their request to use bases in the UK. A majority of the public think this will put us at greater risk.“ [see poll in note 3]


Notes to Editors:

1. For further information and interviews please contact Ben Soffa, CND’s Press & Communications Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859

2. Asked if Iskander missiles could be deployed in Belarus in response to the U.S. system, Major-General Vladimir Zaritsky, head of Russia’s artillery and missile forces, said: “Why not? Under the right conditions and with the corresponding agreement of Belarus, it is possible…Any action inevitably causes a reaction…and this is just the case with the elements of U.S. air defense in the Czech Republic and Poland.”

3. A CND/YouGov poll revealed that 54% of the public agree (compared with 24% who disagree) that “the siting of US missiles and early warning bases in the UK, Poland and the Czech Republic as part of the US National Missile Defence programme, increases the security threat faced by the UK and Europe.” 22% did not know either way. Total sample size was 2,049 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th – 30th July 2007. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

4. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere.