NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow on Thursday said there is still room to reach a bargain with Russia on U.S. plans to field a missile shield in Europe, RIA Novosti reported.
The former Cold War rivals are at loggerheads over an Obama administration plan to field increasingly sophisticated missile interceptors around the continent for the stated purpose of fending off possible Iranian ballistic missile attacks. The U.S. interceptors are to form the core of a broader NATO missile shield that would augment and link individual member nations' antimissile systems. Russia says its own long-range nuclear force could be threatened by the alliance project and has unsuccessfully demanded a legally binding guarantee on the future use of U.S. interceptors in Europe.
NATO's insistence that the project poses no threat to Russian ICBMs has received backing from multiple well-known Russian defense analysts and other experts, the deputy secretary general said at a meeting in the Russian capital between the two military powers. Recommendations made by these analysts could be used by NATO and Russia to strike a compromise on the issue, Vershbow said.
Russia's top foreign policy official, however, was less optimistic in remarks on prospects for striking a deal, Interfax reported on Thursday.
"We are continuing dialogue and we are not evading it, but there is less and less time from day to day," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said to reporters in New York.
Sea-based interceptors on U.S. Aegis Navy warships are already in rotation in the Mediterranean. They are accompanied by a command-and-control center in Germany and a long-range radar in Turkey. Additional interceptors are to be deployed in Poland and Romania in coming years.
Moscow has threatened to deploy short-range ballistic missiles in territory bordering NATO if the dispute cannot be resolved.
"We so far do not see any desire on the part of our NATO partners, where surely the U.S. decides everything, because this project is American in reality," Lavrov said. "We do not see any desire to take into consideration our legitimate concerns so far."
"They are so far getting away with unfounded statements that this is not targeted against Russia," the minister continued. "But if this is so, is it really difficult to formalize this in legally binding guarantees, which would be based on commonly agreed-upon criteria making it possible to track the development of the U.S. missile defense system at every stage and see that this really does not pose any threat to the Russian Federation?"