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MOSCOW, February 12 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Ground Forces chief Col. Gen. Vladimir Chirkin on Tuesday visited a military academy that trains Iskander missile crews, among other specialists, Defense Ministry spokesman Anton Goncharov said.
Chirkin was briefed on the training and education process at St. Petersburg’s Mikhailov Academy by its chief, Maj. Gen. Vladimir Dyatlov, and visited some hands-on class sessions.
He paid special attention to the training of specialists for Iskander short-range mobile ballistic missile systems that are currently being supplied to missile and artillery units on a large scale, Goncharov said.
This year the academy plans to admit about 800 students.
In 2011, then-President Dmitry Medvedev announced plans to deploy Iskander missiles in Russia’s westernmost Kaliningrad Region, to counter the threat posed by the US plans to deploy missile defense elements in Europe. NATO and the United States insist that the shield would defend NATO members against missiles from North Korea and Iran and would not be directed at Russia.
Russia proposed a joint missile defense system, an idea that many experts both at home and abroad dismiss as unviable and unrealistic. Then it demanded “legally binding guarantees” that US/NATO missiles would not be aimed at Russia. Since Moscow’s proposal received a lukewarm response in the West, Russia has been warning of unspecified low-cost “asymmetric measures” to counter the future Western missile defense system.
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.