Russia has submitted a formal request to Bulgaria for information on reports that it is in talks with the United States on hosting elements of a planned European missile defense shield, ITAR-Tass reported yesterday (see GSN, Feb. 18).
The query was made following a meeting yesterday in Moscow between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov and Bulgarian Ambassador to Russia Plamen Grozdanov.
Following reports of Washington-Sofia "consultations regarding deployment of the U.S. antiballistic missile systems in Bulgaria," the release said Moscow "hopes to get explanations for the purposes and essence of the talks."
Bulgaria has said it is not in any formal talks with Washington on specific opportunities for participating in the shield. The United States also said it has not yet asked Bulgaria to host any missile interceptors (ITAR-Tass, Feb. 18).
Moscow has increasingly raised objections to an Obama administration plan that envisions the staged deployment of missile interceptors on land and at sea around Europe as a hedge against potential missile attacks from Iran. The Kremlin has questioned the possible participation of Eastern European countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle said yesterday that discussions over the potential deployment of missile defenses in Bulgaria and Romania would not impact final negotiations with Moscow on a replacement agreement to the now-expired 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, Interfax reported (see GSN, Feb. 18).
Beyrle said U.S. officials were regularly assuring treaty Moscow's negotiators of Washington's objectives in building the shield. He reaffirmed that the antimissile system was not intended to be used against Russia.
The ambassador said he is believed the new arms control treaty would be finalized soon (Interfax, Feb. 19).