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Russia Could Receive NATO Antimissile Security Pledge, France Says

France's top diplomat on Wednesday said NATO has not taken off the table the possibility of granting Russia's demand for a pledge that it would not be the target of a planned European missile shield, the Xinhua News Agency reported (see GSN, Aug. 9).

Russia for months has engaged in discussions with NATO on the missile shield, which would connect and augment the capabilities of member nations and encompass U.S. plans for European missile defenses.

Moscow is concerned that, despite public statements to the contrary, the missile interceptors would secretly be aimed at undermining the Russian nuclear deterrent.The Kremlin has called for a legally binding guarantee against such an eventuality and has threatened to pursue a new strategic arms buildup if an agreement with NATO cannot be reached.

"I hope that we will be able to show that the missile defense system will replace the [utility of the NATO] nuclear deterrent, and we will be able to give Russia the guarantees that the deployment of the system is not aiming at Russia," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said to journalists following a meeting of the Russian-French Security Cooperation Council.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev participated in the meeting.

"For our part, we will do everything we can to clarify the guarantees," Juppe said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke approvingly of the meeting.

"Moscow appreciates France's interest in finding a mutually acceptable solution to the problem of creating the European missile defense system," Lavrov said (Xinhua News Agency/Chinese Defense Ministry, Sept. 7).

The Obama administration this week reaffirmed its position that Russia should not be worried by the U.S. "phased adaptive approach" for European missile defense, United Press International reported. The plan calls for deploying increasingly sophisticated land- and sea-based assets around the continent to identify and destroy enemy missiles from nations such as Iran.

"Political misunderstandings about the capabilities of the proposed NATO system -- specifically that the system would target Russian ICBMs, thereby undermining Russia's strategic deterrent -- are unfounded," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Frank Rose said on Monday during a missile defense conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

"We will continue … efforts to explain that our missile defenses are being deployed against regional threats from the Middle East, and are neither designed, nor do they have the capability, to threaten the large numbers and sophisticated capability of Russia's strategic forces," he said (United Press International, Sept. 8).

Iran on Thursday stepped up its objection to the decision by neighboring Turkey to host a long-range radar station as part of the NATO missile shield, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Sept. 6).

In comments disseminated through a state television outlet, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, "We expect friendly countries and neighbors ... not to promote policies that create tension, which will definitely have complicated consequences."

The NATO missile shield would be aimed primarily at deterring an Iranian ballistic missile strike. There are fears that Tehran could develop a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, though the Middle Eastern state says its atomic activities have no military component (see related GSN story, today).

Due to Ankara's warm relations with Tehran, there had been some skepticism that Turkey would agree to house the radar, which would form a crucial element of the missile shield.

"We believe that the installation of some parts of the NATO missile system in Turkey will not help the security and stability of the region at all, nor that of the host country," Mehmanparast warned.

Mehmanparast's remarks were harsher than comments offered on Monday by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Ghashghavi.

"Iran and Turkey are two friendly neighboring nations ... and have the ability to fully preserve their own security without any foreign intervention," Ghashghavi said (Agence France-Presse/Google News, Sept. 8).

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