U.S. Antimissile Shift Could Boost Dialogue: Russia

The Obama administration's cancellation of plans to field an advanced missile interceptor in Europe could create new space to resolve longstanding tensions between Moscow and Washington over U.S. missile defense deployments planned for the continent over the coming decade, Reuters quoted a senior Russian diplomat as saying on Thursday.

The U.S. Defense Department last week said it would shelve plans to develop the Standard Missile 3 Block 2B interceptor, which was to be the fourth and final component of the Obama administration's "phased adaptive approach" for fielding increasingly capable missile defense assets in Europe. Russia saw a threat to its strategic deterrent from the now-canceled weapon, which was officially intended to counter an Iranian missile threat of up to intercontinental length.

"There is no unequivocal answer yet to the question of what consequences all this can have for our security," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. "The causes for concern have not been removed, but dialogue is needed -- it is in our interest and we welcome the fact that the American side also, it appears, wants to continue this dialogue."

An unidentified U.S. defense insider reaffirmed Washington's insistence that Moscow was "not a factor" in the cancellation, but the source said the Obama administration wants the move to come across as "further evidence that NATO's missile defense plans ... do not threaten Russia."

Meanwhile, a group of GOP lawmakers on Tuesday pressed the Obama administration to seek "not less than $250 million" in fiscal 2014 funds to build an East Coast ballistic missile defense interceptor installation as protection from Iran, Bloomberg reported. Long-range interceptors are currently deployed in California and Alaska; Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week announced plans to place 14 more of the ground-based weapons at Fort Greely in Alaska.

“There is no legitimate reason to not similarly defend the eastern third of the U.S. from Iranian missiles,” 19 Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee said in a written communication. “In fact, it appears Iran could flight-test an ICBM this year,” they said without elaborating. Tehran is generally believed to be several years away from finalizing a potential ICBM capability.

March 22, 2013
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The Obama administration's cancellation of plans to field an advanced missile interceptor in Europe could create new space to resolve longstanding tensions between Moscow and Washington over U.S. missile defense deployments planned for the continent over the coming decade, Reuters quoted a senior Russian diplomat as saying on Thursday.