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Russia Unfazed By Suspension of Antimissile Talks with U.S.

Russia is unfazed by the U.S. announcement last week that antimissile cooperation talks have been suspended due to the events in Ukraine, Interfax reported.

The two countries had been holding preliminary discussions on areas of possible missile defense collaboration in accord with a 2010 Lisbon agreement. However, the talks never gained much traction due to fundamental differences of opinion about U.S. missile interceptors planned for fielding in the coming years in Europe. Moscow sees the weapons as a threat to its nuclear arsenal and does not accept political assurances from Washington that the missiles are only intended as protection from possible attacks launched from the Middle East.

M. Elaine Bunn, a deputy assistant secretary of Defense, last week confirmed to Congress that the antimissile cooperation talks had been suspended as a consequence of Russia's forced annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Asked by Interfax for a response, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Thursday said: "I need to say that cooperation does not exist in this sphere."

"The American side is well aware of the fact that opportunities for such cooperation could emerge if Washington agreed to heed our demand to provide reliable and legally-binding guarantees that the global missile defense system being built by the U.S. ... will not be directed against [Russia]," the deputy minister continued.

Russian Lt. Gen. Yevgeny Buzhinsky, the former head of the defense ministry's international agreements department, told RIA Novosti the suspension of the talks was not much of a loss to Moscow. "Talks or no talks, they don't make a difference anyway," he said.

Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of National Defense Magazine, said the time had come for Russia to implement some of the military countermeasures it previously warned about should its concerns about the implications of U.S. antimissile systems in Europe go unresolved.

Moscow has repeatedly said it could deploy tactical Iskander ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave that borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania. Poland is set in 2018 to begin hosting advanced U.S. intermediate-range missile interceptors that Russia is particularly aggravated about. Korotchenko also recommended that Russia deploy nuclear-capable aircraft in Crimea.

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