A senior U.S. diplomat on Thursday said the Obama administration would maintain talks with Russia on the potential provision of a pledge regarding the use of U.S. missile interceptors planned for deployment around Europe, ITAR-Tass reported (see GSN, March 15).
The two nations have attempted in more than a year of discussions to resolve Moscow's demand that it be provided with a legally binding assurance that U.S. interceptors to be placed in Poland, Romania and on warships home ported in Spain will not be aimed against Russian long-range nuclear missiles. The Obama administration at various times has offered verbal promises on the matter but has declined to put those assurances in writing.
The United States and NATO say their shared missile defense plan for the continent is aimed at countering threats from the Middle East, notably Iran. They have sought to draw a skeptical Russia into the effort.
The Kremlin has threatened to pursue an arms buildup in the Kaliningrad region, a Russian territory that borders NATO nations, if a deal fails to materialize. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday told lawmakers that "if the United States does not want to change anything in the missile defense plans, it should provide guarantees that it is not directed against Russia."
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon told ITAR-Tass that Moscow and Washington are continuing talks on potential options for a security guarantee. He did not provide further specifics on the form of the talks.
"We continue the dialogue on missile defense," Gordon said.
U.S. special envoy for strategic stability and missile defense Ellen Tauscher traveled to the Russian capital last week for a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, according to Gordon (ITAR-Tass, March 16).