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NATO-Russia Session Not Expected in Chicago

The U.S. State Department announced on Monday there will be no meeting between Russia and NATO during next month's high-level alliance meeting in Chicago, RIA Novosti reported (see GSN, April 19).

"There will not be a NATO-Russia Council meeting at Chicago," department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing.

Nuland's comments confirmed what had long been suspected. Both U.S. and Russian officials have previously stated there would be no point to holding a summit between the former Cold War rivals if disputes on missile defense and other issues persisted, according to the report.

The two sides have been holding talks for more than a year on possible antimissile cooperation in Europe. A deal has proved untenable to date, primarily due to continuing Moscow's fears that U.S. missile interceptors planned for fielding in NATO member countries would be aimed against the Russian long-range nuclear deterrent (RIA Novosti, April 24).

Washington and Brussels insist their ballistic missile shield will be focused on protecting Europe from a potential missile attack from Iran.

The deputy head of the alliance is slated to participate in next week's forum on antimissile issues hosted by Moscow, the Moscow Times reported on Tuesday.

Institute for Strategic Assessments researcher Alexander Konovalov said sending Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow signifies NATO wants to continue engaging with the Kremlin on missile defense even though the two sides have failed in multiple rounds of talks to bridge their differences.

Moscow is demanding a legally enforceable pledge that its ICBMs would never be targeted by U.S. interceptors in Europe; Washington and Brussels have said that will not be possible as U.S. and European lawmakers would never approve such a step.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week dismissed a "political" promise offered by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen regarding usage of the interceptors.

Rasmussen also renewed a NATO offer to establish a bilateral system with Russia for sharing information on possible missile threats.

"We do not consider Russia a threat to NATO countries, to NATO territory, to NATO populations," Rasmussen said following his meeting with Lavrov. "And Russia should not consider NATO a threat towards Russia."

The Western military bloc intends to use the May 20-21 Chicago meeting to declare an initial capability to defeat missile attacks, encompassing a U.S. radar site in Turkey and home porting of Navy ships in Spain. Recent reports for the U.S. government have raised questions about the technological efficacy of the planned shield (see GSN, April 23; Nikolaus von Twickel, Moscow Times, April 24).

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