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Russia, U.S. Unable to Reach Understanding on Missile Shield, Lavrov Says
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday said his nation and the United States remain unable to reach an understanding on European missile defense, RIA Novosti reported (see GSN, April 12).
Washington and Moscow for more than a year have engaged in talks on areas for possible collaboration in a U.S.-NATO antimissile architecture currently taking shape in Europe. The sides, though, have been unable to strike a deal due to the Kremlin's continuing suspicions that U.S. interceptors planned for deployment would be aimed at countering Russia's long-range nuclear missiles. The Western military bloc insists its ballistic missile defense system is intended to thwart a feared strike from Iran.
"No agreement on missile defense is taking shape between Russia and the United States," Lavrov said to reporters following his meeting Thursday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the U.S. capital. He said "experts should continue working" on the issue.
Moscow is seeking, with no success yet, a legally enforceable commitment from Washington that its interceptors in Europe will never be pointed at Russian ICBMs. "We will push our position to be taken into account in full," Lavrov said (RIA Novosti, April 13).
He shared that the U.S. administration would like to host a meeting at Camp David between President Obama and President-elect Vladimir Putin after he is installed in office early next month, Agence France-Presse reported.
"We will report to the president [of the summit offer] when he assumes his powers," Lavrov said (Agence France-Presse/Google News, April 13).
The head of the international relations committee in the lower house of the Russian parliament questioned why NATO should think that nonbinding pledges would assuage Moscow on European missile defense, Interfax reported on Thursday.
"Why should Russia believe NATO?" said committee Chairman Alexei Pushkov.
"It's absolutely obvious that this missile defense has the potential goal of neutralizing the Russian nuclear potential," he continued.
"NATO either is offering verbal assurances that NATO has no negative intentions about Russia or is offering symbolic projects such as setting up centers for the exchange of [missile threat] information that impose no commitments on anyone," the lawmaker said.
If no compromise is reached on the matter, the Kremlin has warned it would pursue a military response to the missile shield that could include deployment of short-range missiles and air defense systems in the Kaliningrad region, which borders two NATO states.
Pushkov argued the Western military bloc's contention that the missile shield would be focused on deterring an Iranian missile strike "holds no water."
"The American administration says it won't allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and it's being said already that military strikes may be carried out against Iran. The Obama administration has said the idea is not to deter Iran but ... to force Iran to give up developing nuclear weapons either by diplomatic or military means."
"The construction of the missile defense is going ahead regardless of whether there will be an Iranian threat or not. We are being told that the missile defense [system] will go ahead without any changes and it must guarantee security for the United States and its allies," he said. "Security against who? If Iran is off the agenda a s a threat, who will threaten Europe? North Korea?
"But maybe they'll find Papua New Guinea and find some threat there? It's absolutely obvious that this missile defense has the potential goal of neutralizing the Russian nuclear potential. Sorry, we can't be fooled" (Interfax I, April 12).
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin on Thursday vowed the Russian military "within a few years" would be equipped with air defense technology capable of responding to any missile threat, Interfax reported (see GSN, Feb. 15).
"We will counteract any missile defense deployed against the Russian strategic nuclear force," he said (Interfax II, April 12).
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