Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said relations between his nation and NATO are threatened by the military alliance's program to construct a European ballistic missile shield, the Associated Press reported.
NATO intends to coordinate and enhance individual member nations' missile defense programs in order to form a continent-spanning bulwark against possible missile strikes from the Middle East. An initiative by the United States to through 2020 field increasingly advanced sea- and land-based missile interceptors around Europe is to form the cornerstone of the NATO effort. Russia says the evolving antimissile framework is a serious threat to its own long-range nuclear weapons.
The Russian foreign policy chief said at the core of the impasse is Washington's rejection of Kremlin demands that it provide concrete legal assurances that interceptors planned for fielding in Europe will not target Russian ICBMs.
"Reliable guarantees based on clear and impartial military-technical and geographic criteria that this system will not be targeted against Russian nuclear deterrence forces are fundamentally important for us," Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying to the Russian legislature's upper house. "Such guarantees should make sure that this system is fully consistent with the purpose declared by its initiator, namely, defense against missile threats emanating from the outside of the Euro-Atlantic region, that is, not from Russia."
Following Lavrov's speech, the Federation Council approved a measure that urges the Russian government to continue pushing for an accord with Brussels and Washington that would place limits on the alliance's missile shield, Interfax also reported.
"That could be achieved with solid guarantees that such systems would not be targeted against the Russian strategic nuclear forces," the resolution states.