Dmitry Medvedev is in a decidedly combative mood in the run-up to Russia’s Dec. 4 parliamentary elections.
The Russian president invoked murderous Soviet dictator Josef Stalin when discussing a series of embarrassing launch failures his country has suffered over the past year. He also threatened to target Russian missiles at a planned U.S. missile defense shield in Europe if he doesn’t get his way.
Well, not a whole lot of holiday cheer emanating these days from the Russian leader, who is stepping aside to allow Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to win the presidential election in March. Putin has said he would appoint Medvedev as prime minister.
First, to the string of humiliating launch failures, which began last December with a Proton failure that plunged three navigational satellites into the Pacific and ended this month with Phobos-Grunt probe stuck in low Earth orbit.
“Recent failures are a strong blow to our competitiveness,” Reuters quotes the president as saying in televised remarks. “It does not mean that something fatal has happened, it means that we need to carry out a detailed review and punish those guilty. I am not suggesting putting them up against the wall like under Josef Vissarionovich (Stalin), but seriously punish either financially or, if the fault is obvious, it could be a disciplinary or even criminal punishment.”
That’s a relief. No firing squads. Just years locked away in a Russian prison. That should let a few people sleep easier tonight.
In fairness, corruption runs rampant in Russia today. One estimate holds that 20 percent of the defense budget is lost to theft and fraud. (How much that affects Roscosmos is unclear.) That being said, if Medvedev is really serious about cleaning up corruption, and I mean all of it, there are much higher-profile targets than Russia’s bumbling civilian space agency. Of course, that would get him instantly kicked off Team Putin — or worse.
Meanwhile, Medvedev made some threatening remarks about an American missile shield set for deployment in Europe that’s designed to protect against Iran’s growing ballistic missile program:
Medvedev, who is leading the ruling United Russia party to the polls in the country’s Dec. 4 parliamentary elections, accused the United States and its NATO allies of failing to negotiate with Russia in good faith, and he said Russia reserved the right to halt its arms-control efforts.
Russia will deploy new missiles aimed at U.S. missile defense sites in Europe if Washington goes ahead with the planned shield despite Russia’s concerns, President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday. (Nov. 23)
“Unfortunately, the United States and other NATO partners have not demonstrated serious readiness to move,” he said in a televised address.
His declaration comes after a week of bellicose statements by Russian officials about NATO. Much of the rhetoric has focused on the prospect of NATO expansion, which is not under discussion but which is an ever-handy political touchstone for Russian military and nationalist groups.
U.S. officials deny the charges, saying they have been working closely with the Russians and would like to have that nation become a partner in the missile defense shield.