U.S. President Obama and Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin during a telephone conversation on Friday agreed to maintain bilateral talks on missile defense -- an issue that has threatened to derail their nations' high-profile strategic "reset" (see GSN, March 8).
"President Obama and President-elect Putin agreed to continue their efforts to find common ground and remove obstacles to better relations," the White House said in a prepared statement. The two also discussed the U.S.-Russian New START nuclear arms control agreement, the situation in Syria and other matters of bilateral interest.
Moscow and Washington have engaged in discussions for more than a year on areas for potential antimissile collaboration as the United States and NATO move forward with plans for a European missile shield. However, an agreement has proved out of reach due largely to Kremlin suspicions that U.S. missile interceptors planned for deployment in Europe could target Russian strategic nuclear forces. Russia has demanded to no avail a legally binding guarantee that the interceptors would never be aimed at Russian long-range missiles (White House release, March 9).
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) last week submitted legislation to support the expansion of NATO and to enhance U.S. dealings with member states to the military alliance, according to a press release.
Lugar's bill would urge European members of NATO to take on a greater financial responsibility in the establishment of the continent's ballistic missile shield (U.S. Senator Richard Lugar release, March 9).