MOSCOW, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- The melting of the Arctic ice cap could enable the United States to place missile defense shield elements aboard ships there, a Russian diplomat says.
Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's envoy to NATO, told the Vesti 24 television channel that in a worst-case scenario, the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic Sea -- now usually only open about eight weeks per year -- would be permanently accessible and could provide the United States with an effective theater to position shipboard missile defenses to counter Russian weapons, RIA Novosti reported.
"The ice would retreat, it would melt, which means that NATO would definitely be present in the Arctic," Rogozin told the broadcaster. "They have been planning it for a long time, and under the very bad circumstances the U.S. strategic missile defense would arrive there onboard these ships."
After announcing he was scrapping plans for a land-based missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, U.S. President Barack Obama has said placing such defenses on cruisers is a more technically advanced alternative. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev responded during the weekend by announcing he has decided against deploying Iskander missiles in Russia's Kaliningrad Region, near Poland, RIA Novosti said.