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U.S. Offers Dialogue But No Legal Pledge to Russia on Missile Defense

Acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller speaks at an event in Moscow in 2012. Yesterday, the senior State Department official urged Russia to continue talks with NATO on missile-defense issues (Kirill Kudryavstev/AFP/Getty Images). Acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller speaks at an event in Moscow in 2012. Yesterday, the senior State Department official urged Russia to continue talks with NATO on missile-defense issues (Kirill Kudryavstev/AFP/Getty Images).

The United States on Thursday called for more engagement with Russia on missile-defense issues but maintained its position that it will never provide Moscow with desired legal guarantees on the usage of advanced interceptors planned for fielding in Europe.

Acting U.S. Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller told an audience in Poland: "We are committed to a dialogue on missile defense, both bilaterally and in the NATO-Russia Council, and stand ready to begin practical discussions" with the Kremlin.

Regardless of what the United States might wish, Russian President Vladimir Putin this week signaled his frustration with the lack of headway made in years of multinational and bilateral missile defense talks by dissolving a Russian task force that focused on fostering missile defense cooperation with NATO.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu earlier this week groused that the United States was proceeding with establishing its missile-defense systems in Europe while Moscow remains concerned that the NATO ballistic-missile shield could target Russian intercontinental ballistic-missiles.

"Missile defense programs develop and our concerns are ignored," he said. "We lack predictability in relation to American and NATO plans in missile defense."

The Kremlin has sought legally binding assurances from the United States that the advanced Standard Missile 3 interceptors -- planned for fielding in 2015 on warships home-ported in Spain and at a base in Romania and at another base in 2018 in Poland -- will never be used to threaten Russia's strategic nuclear forces. Moscow does not accept, without technical proof, Washington's assurances that the interceptors will not be fast enough to counter Russian ICBMs.

"Russia continues to request legal guarantees that could create limitations on our ability to develop and deploy future missile defense systems against regional ballistic missile threats such as those presented by Iran and North Korea," Gottemoeller said in her speech to a multinational conference in Warsaw on missile defense. "We have made clear that we cannot and will not accept limitations on our ability to defend ourselves, our allies, and our partners, including where we deploy our BMD-capable Aegis ships."

NATO and the United States contend Russia's concerns about the missile shield's capabilities would be resolved if it would agree to their proposal to establish two separate but connected centers that would exchange technical data on missile threats while maintaining  independence in decisions to launch interceptors.

"The United States believes that through cooperation and transparency, Russia will see firsthand that this system is designed to respond to ballistic missile threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area, and that NATO missile defense systems will not undermine Russia's strategic nuclear deterrent," Gottemoeller said.

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