The heads of the world's two leading nuclear superpowers were expected on Monday to discuss a U.S. plan to field ballistic missile defense systems in Europe, RIA Novosti reported (see GSN, June 4).
Russia has demanded legally enforceable guarantees that its long-range nuclear missiles would not be targeted by land- and sea-based missile interceptors intended for deployment in Europe. The United States has rejected such calls, maintaining that the missile shield it is developing with NATO is focused on defending against an evolving Iranian ballistic missile threat.
More than a year of talks have failed to produce a compromise under which Russia might join the developing antimissile system. Moscow has warned of a military response to the European shield if the dispute persists, including deployment of short-range missiles in territory bordering NATO states.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Obama are set to discuss the issue, the situation in Syria and other matters on Monday during a two-way summit on the margins of a gathering of the Group of 20 nations in Los Cabos, Mexico, according to Putin aide Yuri Ushakov
"The missile defense issue will be discussed; the U.S. has already warned us about this," Ushakov said. "This is quite normal, as the issue is sensitive."
"But it should be taken into account that Americans are now in the midst of a presidential campaign; important, crucial decisions are rarely taken in such circumstances," the aide continued. "But I believe the discussion itself will be useful for the both parties."
Monday's meeting would mark the first time that Obama and Putin have met as heads of state (RIA Novosti, June 17).
The United States needs Russia's support on a number of its top immediate foreign policy goals, including resolving the Iranian nuclear impasse, achieving a peaceful pullout from Afghanistan, and arriving at an international response to the mounting casualties in Syria (see related GSN stories, today). Further out, the Obama administration hopes to retain the Kremlin's continued support on arms control and efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, the Associated Press reported.
Moscow this week is hosting a high-profile multinational meeting aimed at making headway on the Iranian nuclear dispute. Negotiators from Iran are meeting with their British, Chinese, French, German, Russian, and U.S. counterparts (Anne Gearan, Associated Press/Google News, June 18).