MOSCOW — Sharply criticizing the United States while offering to rebuild relations with its new leader, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned in a nationally televised address Wednesday that he would deploy short-range missiles near Poland if the Obama administration goes ahead with plans to build a missile defense shield in Europe.
Kremlin officials have threatened before to target Poland by moving tactical missiles into the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, most recently after Poland agreed in August to host a U.S. interceptor base. But Medvedev's threat "to neutralize, when necessary" the American installation was the most explicit and public endorsement of the plan by a top Russian leader.
The warning appeared intended to signal the Kremlin's priorities to the president-elect and could serve as an early foreign policy test for Barack Obama, who has said he supports missile defenses against Iran and North Korea but has also criticized the Bush administration for failing to consult with allies about the shield.
Medvedev's remarks came in his first state of the nation address since taking office in May, in which he held out little hope for democratic reforms and proposed amending the Russian constitution to lengthen the presidential term to six years — a move condemned by critics as part of a plan to allow Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to return to office.
Medvedev emphasized that Russia remained ready to work with the United States if it abandoned its "mistaken, egotistical and sometimes simply dangerous" policies. "It is true that these relations are not going through the easiest period today. But I would like to stress that we have no problems with the American people. We have no inherent anti-Americanism."
Russia's finance minister suggested Obama's election would give a boost to the global economy, and the Russian ambassador to NATO said he expected Obama to improve the alliance's relationship with Moscow and lift the limits on cooperation imposed after Russia's war with Georgia.