The Obama administration on Wednesday sought to address Russia's stated aggravation over U.S. plans to field missile interceptors at a Romanian air base, the Moscow Times reported (see GSN, May 4).
The interceptor installation is to be established at the Daveselu air base, close to Romania's border with Bulgaria. It is due to go online in 2015, in the second phase of Washington's multipart "phased adaptive approach" for deploying missile defenses in Europe.
Moscow, which has long been wary of antimissile development on the continent, said the system could undermine its nuclear deterrent and called for a legal assurance that the interceptors would not be aimed at Russian strategic elements.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher said the Kremlin should not worry.
"We have good relations with Russia. We have just ratified the New START treaty, we are working together on various other issues," news reports quoted her as saying in Bucharest. "It is a system that will defend NATO and, if Russia chooses to work with us in a cooperative manner, the system will defend Russia, too."
Tauscher was due to meet on Thursday with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, as part of ongoing efforts to establish a plan for missile defense collaboration between Moscow and NATO.
A top lawmaker in Moscow said the government would not stand idly by as potential threats develop.
"Military specialists in the United States, NATO and Romania should be absolutely aware that any measure entails countermeasures," said Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the State Duma's international affairs committee, as quoted by a RIA Novosti report (Moscow Times, May 5).
Kosachyov on Wednesday called the U.S.-Romanian agreement on the interceptor site "quite unpleasant and unexpected," Interfax reported.
"It goes against the whole logic of the U.S.-Russian dialogue over the deployment of parts of the missile defense system in Eastern Europe," he said.
"At the same time, I would not dramatize the situation over the fact that not only Poland and the Czech Republic, but also Romania are now willing to host parts of the U.S. missile defense system," the lawmaker added. "I would not dramatize the situation because the possibility of bilateral consultations and talks still remains."
The "time allowance" for talks between Moscow and Washington on the matter "is at least five years, and this time allowance will be largely determined by the pace of a nuclear-weapon program, for instance, in Iran," according to Kosachyov.
Washington and NATO have said their missile defense activities in Europe are primarily aimed at countering threats from the Middle East, particularly Iran (Interfax, May 4).
Kosachyov expressed doubt that Washington would offer a legal pledge that U.S. missile interceptors would not be aimed at Russian nuclear forces, RIA Novosti reported.
"My personal point of view is that the ideal scenario would be for the United States to issue legal guarantees, but the Americans are unlikely to do that," he said (RIA Novosti/B92.net, May 4).