Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Monday vowed that if elected he would firmly hold to U.S. plans to field advanced missile defenses even in the face of Russian threats, Agence France-Presse reported.
"I will implement effective missile defenses to protect against threats. And on this, there will be no flexibility with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin," Romney said in widely promoted foreign policy address.
The former Massachusetts governor was referring to President Obama's controversial comment to then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in March that he would have more "flexibility" to reach a compromise with Moscow on missile defense plans for Europe after the November presidential election.
Russia strongly opposes the Obama administration plan to through 2020 field increasingly sophisticated sea- and land-based missile interceptors around Europe. Russia does not accept Washington's insistence the interceptors are solely aimed at thwarting a possible ballistic missile strike launched from Iran. The Kremlin fears the antimissile systems would also secretly be aimed at undermining its own strategic missile forces.
Moscow has threatened to deploy short-range ballistic missiles in territory bordering NATO countries if an accord is not reached with NATO and Washington on missile defense. The Russian Defense Ministry is also focused on developing countermeasures to U.S. missile defenses in Europe and elsewhere, Russia Today reported on Monday.
"We are closely monitoring the work of our colleagues and understand its vector," Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said in an interview with the Itogi journal. "Russia’s state military program, which looks ahead until 2020, solves many tasks and will help neutralize threats created by the U.S. global missile defense network."
In late 2010, the two former Cold War antagonists agreed to explore areas for potential missile defense cooperation. Close to two years of talks since then have failed to close the considerable gap between the sides' views on what is needed to secure the European continent from possible missile attacks launched from the Middle East.
NATO is pursuing a plan that would enhance and coordinate individual member states' antimissile capacities; the Obama administration's "phased adaptive approach" for missile defense forms the core of the broader alliance effort. In May, the Western military bloc declared it had established an initial capability to protect Europe from missile strikes.
Russia is upset that NATO is unilaterally implementing its missile defense plan absent an agreement with Moscow that would govern usage of fielded U.S. interceptors. The alliance has also rejected a Russian proposal to establish a unified antimissile framework that would effectively give Moscow a 'red button' in decisions to fire missile interceptors.
"Our partners still believe that it is necessary to set up to two independent but coordinated systems," according to Korchunov. "Notably is that only NATO member states with the USA. in the first place will define the configuration of their system and no other country is entitled to influence the process of defining its architecture and parameters, and that is a tricky part of the problem."