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NATO Hopes Putin Will Maintain Efforts to Reach Missile Defense Deal

The head of NATO expressed hope on Monday that Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Putin will continue efforts to reach an agreement on European missile defense, the Associated Press reported on Monday (see GSN, March 2).

Putin was re-elected to the presidency on Sunday in voting that was quickly criticized by election observers for instances of fraud.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he would like to see the Western military bloc and Russia find a way to collaborate on missile defense as "both Russia and NATO would benefit from such cooperation."

The former Cold War antagonists have engaged in discussions for more a year on areas for potential antimissile collaboration in Europe. An agreement has so far proved out of reach largely due to Kremlin suspicions that U.S. missile interceptors planned for deployment around Europe would be secretly aimed against Russia's long-range nuclear weapons. The alliance maintains its shield is intended to defend against feared ballistic missile strikes from the Middle East.

As prime minister, Putin has been critical of U.S. and NATO missile defense plans for the continent and has accused Washington of backing away from proposals that could have led to a deal.

At the core of NATO's missile defense plans is a U.S. effort to through 2020 field increasingly advanced interceptors in Poland and Romania and on warships that would dock in Spain. Kremlin demands that NATO and the United States provide binding guarantees that the interceptors will not be aimed at Russian strategic forces have been rejected.

Rasmussen said he anticipated Putin would participate in an alliance summit this May in Chicago in the event a deal is struck on missile defense. "But ... Chicago will not be the end of the story, because we will continue talks, negotiations with Russia beyond our meeting in Chicago" (Associated Press/Boston Globe, March 5).

"I would expect continued progress in the cooperation between NATO and Russia," the Xinhua News Agency quoted Rasmussen as saying to journalists.
 
"Obviously... we have our differences. But those differences should not overshadow the fact that in many areas we do share security concerns ... this is the reason why we should cooperate also on missile defense," the alliance chief said.
 
NATO expects to announce at the Chicago summit a preliminary capacity to shoot down missiles flying toward Europe. That "interim operational capability" is to be comprised of a long-range radar unit in Turkey and an Aegis-equipped U.S. warship deployed in the Mediterranean (see GSN, Feb. 3; Xinhua News Agency/People's Daily Online, March 5).
 
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Tuesday said Putin woule be likely to avoid the Chicago summit if antimissile issues are not slated to be discussed, RIA Novosti reported.
 
"Russia has an invitation to the NATO summit; everything depends on the agenda," Ryabkov said.
 
"We have a considerable amount of work in progress but in the absence of (a discussion) on missile defense there would probably not be enough to take part in the summit," he said (RIA Novosti, March 6).
 
Ryabkov said time had not yet run out on reaching an accord on missile defense, ITAR-Tass reported.
 
"The missile defense problem has turned into a quite complex block which, by and large, hampers further progress in the productive vein in the military and political area, in the field of control over armaments," he said (ITAR-Tass I, March 6).
 
The planned summit between the alliance and Russia in Chicago could be called off due to differences over missile defense, Rasmussen said, while cautioning it was still too soon to tell as further talks on the matter are planned with Moscow, ITAR-Tass reported (ITAR-Tass II, March 5).
 
President Obama intends to take part in the NATO summit in Chicago, the White House said in a release.
 
The high-profile security gathering "will be the premier opportunity this year for the president to continue his efforts to strengthen NATO in order to ensure that the Atlantic alliance remains the most successful alliance in history," the release states (White House release, March 5).
 
Separately, U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) has submitted a bill that would prohibit the Obama administration from sharing sensitive antimissile data with Russia in return for diplomatic concessions or other favors, according to a release on Monday from his office.
 
It was reported last year that the administration was weighing providing certain details about the burnout velocity of U.S. Standard Missile 3 interceptors to Moscow in order to prove to the Kremlin that the systems lacked the capability to destroy Russian long-range ballistic missiles. Republican lawmakers came out strongly against any such move (see GSN, Dec. 2, 2011).
 
"This legislation builds on an amendment that I introduced and was passed last year," Brooks said in provided comments. "President Obama has publicly stated his willingness to violate the amendment I sponsored, and Congress passed, that prohibits the president from sharing America’s ‘hit-to-kill’ and other sensitive and expensive missile defense technology with Russia. I introduced this bill to protect American lives and to protect decades of costly research and innovation" (U.S. Representative Mo Brooks release, March 5).
 

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