A missile is fired during exercises outside Kaliningrad
Russia has held out an olive branch to President Barack Obama by suspending plans to deploy missiles in Europe.
Defence Ministry officials said that the move had been made because the new United States leadership was reconsidering plans to establish a missile defence shield in Eastern Europe. Deployment of Iskander short-range missiles, which can carry nuclear warheads, in Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad had been halted in response.
The news emerged before Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's appearance at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last night. Mr Putin said on Monday that he was "cautiously optimistic" about improved relations with the US because Mr Obama had shown a willingness to reconsider the missile shield.
The administration of former President George W. Bush ignored Russian objections to its plan to install 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic. It signed agreements with the two Eastern European Governments last year to deploy the system.
The Russians seem to have finally grasped the implications of Mr Obama’s whirlwind foreign policy review
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Washington said then that the shield was necessary to counter threats from rogue states such as Iran and was not directed against Moscow. Russia said, however, that the system posed a threat to its own security and repeatedly warned that it would take counter measures unless the US backed down.
President Dmitri Medvedev ordered Iskander missiles to be placed in Kaliningrad in a speech made the day after Mr Obama's election as President last November. It would have been the first deployment of offensive missiles inside Europe since the end of the Cold War.
"These plans have been suspended because the new US administration is not pushing ahead with the plans to deploy ... the US missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic," an official from Russia's General Staff told Interfax news.
"Russia does not need to deploy Iskanders in the Kaliningrad region if the US does not install its missile defence facilities in Eastern Europe."
Russia's Defence Ministry did not confirm the change of policy officially, but Ria-Novosti quoted an official as saying that it had taken "no practical measures to deploy Iskander" in Kaliningrad.
Mr Obama and Mr Medvedev spoke for the first time by telephone on Monday. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated that they could hold their first meeting in London at the G20 summit in April.
He told Russia's upper house of parliament that relations with the US would "start anew". Mr Lavrov said: "We hope that a new window of opportunity will be opened which will take our relations on to a trajectory of stable growth after a period of needless turbulence."
The Kremlin's initiative comes at a critical moment as Mr Obama seeks to engage Iran to dissuade the Islamic regime from continuing with plans to develop a nuclear bomb.
Russia has a critical role because it is building Iran's $1 billion nuclear power plant at Bushehr and has delivered 82 tonnes of low-enriched uranium fuel for the plant. Atomstroiexport, the state company building the project, recently declared that operations would become "irreversible" once scheduled work was completed next month.
Nato welcomed the reports from Moscow. Spokesman James Appathurai said: "The earlier Russian announcement that they were going to deploy missiles into Kaliningrad and point them at Nato allies was unwelcome. If that decision has now been rescinded, it is a good step."
But, even as hopes rose for a new US-Russia relationship, evidence emerged of continued military jockeying between the two states. The Russian Air Force reported that two TU-95 Bear strategic bombers were shadowed over by four US fighter jets as they carried out a patrol near Alaska.