Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated that recent changes to U.S. ballistic missile defense planning have not quelled his nation's concerns about the developing European missile shield's implications, Interfax reported on Thursday.
The U.S. Defense Department last month said it was canceling development of a next-generation Standard Missile 3 system intended to have limited capabilities for eliminating ICBMs. That weapon was to have eventually been fielded in Europe during the last phase of the Obama administration's "phased adaptive approach" to missile defense.
Moscow has said the program could pose a threat to its long-range nuclear deterrent. It has demanded a legally binding agreement that NATO and the United States would not aim their antimissile systems at Russian missiles. The military alliance has refused, saying the shield is meant to counter Middle Eastern missile threats and poses no danger to Russia's large, more-sophisticated nuclear arsenal.
"Even if one takes account of the fact that the fourth phase has been put off for a long period -- some analysts mention a period of 10 years -- the new configuration remains within the framework of the U.S. global system of missile defense," Lavrov said in a television interview. He reaffirmed that Moscow is still looking for a legally binding assurance.
"We don't suspect anyone of anything, but ... in military affairs it's not intention but potential that matters. Chekhov's gun is based on the same logic," Lavrov added.
The antimissile dispute has been a key setback to the Obama administration's "reset" of relations with Moscow.
"I've described the reset as sort of, on pause," Agence France-Presse quoted U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove as telling the Senate Armed Services Committee during a Thursday hearing on his nomination as NATO supreme commander
The powers should continue to work for collaboration on ballistic missile defense, the officer said.
U.S. national security adviser Tom Donilon is scheduled to visit Moscow next week for talks that will cover the missile defense dispute.
Lavrov and other officials on Friday suggested the prohibiting of select Russians from the United States under the U.S. Magnitsky Act could undermine progress on the missile defense issue, Reuters reported.
"If the list is published, we will react, and our American partners know that," according to the Kremlin's top diplomat.