Russian President Vladimir Putin has nullified a 2011 order that created an interagency working group inside the Kremlin that focused on fostering missile defense collaboration with NATO, the Voice of Russia reported on Thursday.
The Russian leader also revoked a April 2012 presidential decree that created a special envoy for missile shield discussions with NATO -- a position formerly held by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who also led the Kremlin working group. The elimination of the interdepartmental group and the special envoy position signal that Moscow is moving further away from resolving its longstanding concerns with the implications of NATO's plan for European ballistic missile defense.
Moscow, meanwhile, this week moved forward agreements to deepen air defense cooperation with two former Soviet republics in accordance with efforts to develop countermeasures to the evolving NATO missile shield.
Moscow on Tuesday said it had agreed to send additional S-300 missile defense systems to Belarus and on Monday announced it had given provisional approval to merging air defense capabilities with Kazakhstan. The announcements came the same week as Romania and the United States celebrated the start of construction for a site that in about two years will host advanced U.S. missile interceptors that are being deployed in accordance with NATO's plan to construct an alliance-wide ballistic missile shield.
The Kremlin views the NATO missile shield as a threat to its strategic nuclear arms and does not accept U.S. assurances the planned interceptors will never target Russian missiles. Moscow has said it will respond to NATO's actions by working to deepen defense ties with the Central Asian military alliance it established following the end of the Soviet Union. Belarus and Kazakhstan are both in the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
The S-300 units that Russia will provide to Belarus are to be fielded not far from the country's border with NATO member states Lithuania and Poland, Russia Today reported. The announcement followed a meeting between Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Belarus opposite, Yury Zhadobin.
"We plan to increase the capabilities of Belarus air defenses with four S-300 missile complexes," Shoigu said. The technology is capable of intercepting enemy fighter jets, cruise missiles and some ballistic missiles.
The provisional agreement with Kazakhstan to enact legal principles that would govern the activities of the air defense capabilities they have agreed to merge must still be signed off on by Putin and be ratified by the State Duma, RIA Novosti reported.