Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said yesterday that regardless of Washington's assertions to the contrary, U.S. missile defenses are targeting his country, ITAR-Tass reported (see GSN, Sept. 15).
"They tell us their missile shield is not aimed against us, but we tell them our calculations show it is aimed against us," Serdyukov said following a meeting in Washington with his U.S. counterpart, Robert Gates.
Moscow has maintained criticisms over U.S. plans to build a missile shield in Europe employing land- and sea-based versions of the Standard Missile 3 system as a safeguard against Iranian short- and medium-range missiles. Russia has questioned whether the proposed missile shield -- already scaled down from a Bush-era plan -- would undercut its own nuclear deterrent.
The Russian defense minister proposed undertaking bilateral assessments with Washington on missile threats.
"Only after that it is possible to decide how to counter the threats and whether it is necessary to deploy missile shield elements in the planned regions or [if] other options may be found," he said.
Serdyukov said he had reached agreement with Gates on a three-level set of talks that would begin with expert-level meetings, followed by chiefs-of-staff discussions and ending with ministerial-level talks. If all three stages cannot come to agreement, "the presidents will make a political decision."
He said the Kremlin would like to collaborate on European missile defense: "In reality we want to actively participate in it. As missile shield objects are deployed on the European territory it shall not happen without our participation. We shall directly participate in missile shield construction" (ITAR-Tass, Sept. 17).
Serdyukov said today that Moscow had no plans to reverse its 2007 decision to suspend participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. The accord placed limits on the deployment of heavy arms and aircraft in Europe and obligated signatory nations to destroy surplus weapons, RIA Novosti reported (see GSN, July 21).
"Russia's stance remains unchanged. That's why the moratorium will remain in place until suitable alternatives are proposed to us," the defense minister said.
Then-President Vladimir Putin ordered the treaty moratorium partly to object to NATO expansion into former Soviet territory and as a response to U.S. antimissile plans for Europe, according to RIA Novosti.
While the treaty impasse was discussed with Gates, no breakthroughs were achieved, Serdyukov said (RIA Novosti, Sept. 17).
Meanwhile, talks on having Romania host elements of the planned missile shield are progressing, a Romanian official said yesterday (see GSN, June 18).
Romanian Foreign Ministry negotiator Bogdan Aurescu said a third round of meetings would be held today in Bucharest, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Progress has been achieved in working out legal issues and figuring out where to locate the U.S.-manufactured missile interceptors.
"On the other hand, at NATO level, we back the idea of a common NATO system and all the technical and economic issues involved are to be certainly discussed within the alliance," Aurescu said.
Bulgaria has been mentioned as another possible host country, while Poland and the Czech Republic could be involved even though the Bush administration plan in which they had crucial roles has been eliminated (Xinhua News Agency, Sept. 16).