Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko on Monday dismissed hopes that his nation and NATO could reach agreement on European missile defense collaboration before the Western military bloc's May summit, RIA Novosti reported (see GSN, Oct. 25).
"Chances that an agreement would be signed on legally binding guarantees that the NATO missile shield would not target Russia by the Russia-NATO Council summit in Chicago in May 2012 are dwindling with every day," the deputy minister said.
Moscow, however, remains focused on maintaining a dialogue on the matter with the United States and NATO with the aim of arriving at a workable settlement, Grushko said.
Russia says it fears that its nuclear arsenal is the intended target of a U.S. plan to over the coming decade field increasingly advanced sea- and land-based missile interceptors around Europe. The Obama administration's "phased adaptive approach" is to form the core of a broader NATO initiative to link and augment individual member states' missile defense capacities.
Washington and NATO insist the missile shield is aimed at thwarting a potential ballistic missile attack from the Middle East. They have sought to draw Russia into the plan.
The Kremlin is demanding NATO first provide a written, legally enforceable pledge the missile shield will not be aimed at Russian strategic nuclear weapons. The envisioned pledge would include details on the scope of the missile shield, deployment sites and the velocity at which the interceptors would fly, according to Grushko.
The Obama administration and NATO have said they will not provide such a guarantee. Washington has offered instead to allow Russian specialists to observe one or more U.S. missile interceptor tests to verify the systems do not have the ability to threaten Russia's long-range weapons.
Moscow is also calling for a single collaborative antimissile framework in Europe that would see Russia and NATO each assume missile defense responsibility over a specific geographic area. The alliance has rejected that proposal on the grounds it would leave some member nations' missile security in Russian hands.
"Some countries in the alliance say they cannot entrust Russia with their security because it is not part of the (NATO) collective defense system," said Grushko, who criticized that argument as backwards thinking.
"It does not correspond to the principles we are promoting in the Russia-NATO Council and which we use in our practical cooperation with NATO," the Russian diplomat said.
Grushko also blamed the lack of headway toward a deal on moves by the United States to implement its missile defense plans in Europe. Washington has already struck deals with Poland, Romania, Spain and Turkey to host elements of the shield.
Should real headway be achieved in missile defense talks with NATO, it would "become a decisive step toward realizing principles of integrated security, a common space of security in the Euroatlantic region, or speaking in broader terms, in the Eurasian region," Grushko said (RIA Novosti, Oct. 31).