A Russian diplomat said Friday that U.S. plans to locate missile interceptors in Romania as part of its program for European missile defense were hampering final negotiations on a new nuclear arms control treaty, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Feb. 19).
"In the most immediate sense" planned Romanian involvement in the U.S. missile shield is "influencing" final talks on a successor agreement to the expired 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an Interfax report (see GSN, Feb. 18).
Romania announced this month that it appeared ready to host U.S. ballistic missile interceptors on its territory. This would occur under a revised U.S. shield that envisages land- and sea-based interceptors deployed around Europe as protection from potential short- and medium-range missiles launched from Iran.
While Russia initially greeted the new plan as an improvement over a Bush-era initiative, Moscow has increasingly raised objections to the roles that Eastern European countries such as Poland would play. The Kremlin has objected to Romanian involvement on the grounds that it would negatively influence Russian security interests. It has also criticized potential Bulgarian participation, though Sofia has said it has not had any specific discussions with Washington on the matter.
U.S. Ambassador to Moscow John Beyrle said recently that Washington had accepted a Russian request to add language to the new nuclear accord that would recognize the connection between defensive programs, like the missile shield, and offensive systems. However, Washington has said the nuclear treaty would not restrict U.S. missile shield activities (Associated Press/Washington Post, Feb. 19).
Moscow's ambassador to NATO said Friday that the Obama administration would offer further information about its missile defense plans at a March 3 meeting in Brussels of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, United Press International reported.
Interfax reported that Russian envoy Dmitry Rogozin said that "questions that the Russian side plans to ask will be of interest not only to members of the Russia-NATO Council but also to neutral states and countries in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States)."
Moscow agrees with Washington that the two former Cold War adversaries can cooperate in specific areas like missile defense, Rogozin said (United Press International, Feb. 19).
Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said Friday that his nation would deploy short-range Iskander tactical missiles in its Baltic Kaliningrad territory only if there is a "direct threat to Russia," Reuters reported.
"If there is some threat from Europe to Russia, then we will place them (there)," Serdyukov said. "This is a matter where the decision is made by the president."
He did not specify what possible dangers would necessitate such an action.
Moscow last year withdrew its plan to field Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad following U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to not move quickly in implementing his predecessor's plan for European missile defense. The Bush administration plan, now scrapped, involved the fielding of 10 long-range missile interceptors in Poland and a radar installation in the Czech Republic.
However, Moscow has expressed displeasure with the Obama administration's plan to deploy Patriot missile batteries in Poland, which borders Kaliningrad (Terhi Kinnunen, Reuters, Feb. 19).