Russia yesterday indicated it would maintain dialogue with NATO and the United States regarding an invitation to collaborate with the military alliance on missile defense operations, the Xinhua News Agency reported (see GSN, Oct. 19).
Any options for a joint antimissile effort "will be discussed," Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said.
"NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has put forth an initiative (on the creation of a joint missile defense system) and it is now being studied thoroughly," Grushko said. "We'll continue contacts with American partners and NATO countries on this issue in the short term" (Xinhua News Agency, Oct. 21).
NATO nations are expected to determine at their Nov. 19-21 summit in Lisbon, Portugal, whether to formally include missile defense among alliance objectives, paving the way for a program to integrate and augment the antimissile systems of member countries. The 28-state organization has sought Russian collaboration on the project, which it says is intended to increase protection from ballistic missiles held by countries including Iran and North Korea.
Next month's summit could consider how Russia might support the system, Interfax quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko as saying yesterday. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday he would take part in the event (Interfax, Oct. 20).
Meanwhile, NATO member Turkey has remained ambivalent over whether to permit deployment of a missile-tracking radar station within its borders as part of the planned shield, the Associated Press reported today. The station would serve as one component of a system to alert NATO to a missile launch in nearby Iran, but Ankara has maintained warm relations with Tehran and expressed concern that hosting the radar could damage their ties.
In addition, Turkey has expressed opposition to NATO leaders specifically referring to an Iranian missile danger at next month's summit.
"We do want to reach a deal," Turkish Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Selim Yenel said. "We don't want any problems at the NATO summit. It should be finalized by then."
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates this week denied Washington was leaning on Ankara over the antimissile plan, but failure to reach a compromise on the matter could harm their relationship, according to AP. A deal might involve decreasing Iran's prominence in the alliance's official rationale for the project, but the United States might be averse to such an arrangement (Desmond Butler, Associated Press/Washington Post, Oct. 21).
Elsewhere, NATO state Canada endorsed the proposed missile defense system, Postmedia News reported yesterday.
"Canada supports the development of a NATO missile defense system for the protection of allied European territory and populations," said Catherine Loubier, spokeswoman for Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon.
The endorsement by Canada's Conservative Party-led government could mean the nation would help pay for the system. It would also undermine the nation's focus and support for arms control initiatives, according to the New Democratic Party and the independent Rideau Institute think tank.
"We're concerned this is Canada's involvement in missile defense through the back door," said Steve Staples, who heads the Rideau Institute.
Still, Canada had little means of opposing the antimissile plan, said James Fergusson, an expert with the University of Manitoba.
"Given that the European allies, by and large, have a consensus that they should go down the missile-defense path and the U.S. is supportive, not least of all because European-deployed defenses can facilitate or assist in the defense of North America, we would be in a very difficult diplomatic position if we said no to this," he said (Juliet O'Neill, Postmedia News/Montreal Gazette, Oct. 20).