A senior NATO official has reaffirmed the military alliance's stance against providing Russia with any sort of binding agreement on the use of missile interceptors to be deployed around Europe, Estonian Public Broadcasting reported on Tuesday (see GSN, May 21).
"We do not see legally binding guarantees as a real solution. Furthermore, they are not politically feasible for the United States, because when the New START treaty was ratified, the government promised Congress that it would never agree to any constraints that would limit the country's missile defense capability," NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said during the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Tallinn.
The United States is working with NATO to establish a shield that would protect Europe from ballistic missile attacks. While the alliance says the system is intended to counter threats from Iran, Russian leaders have said it could ultimately be aimed at its long-range nuclear forces.
Brussels and Washington say the sea- and land-based interceptors due for fielding through 2020 would not be capable of defeating Russian strategic nuclear missiles. Several round of talks, though, have failed to produce an agreement under which the sides might collaborate in establishing the antimissile system.
"We think that participation in the combined system will enable Russia to overcome its fears. It is a much better guarantee than a piece of paper that can be annulled on short notice as was the case with the Antiballistic Missile Treaty from which the Bush administration withdrew a while back," said Vershbow, a veteran of the U.S. State and Defense departments (Sigrid Maasen, Estonian Public Broadcasting, May 29).
The potential remains for advancement on antimissile discussions following the U.S. presidential election in November, ITAR-Tass on Tuesday quoted a staffer for Russian President Vladimir Putin as saying.
"I do not rule out that some impulse will be given to the talks over this theme (European missile defense) after the American elections; it will be easier to talk then," according to Yuri Ushakov.
"The work at the level of experts, officials is continuing," he said, adding that "the election campaign is not a very convenient period to reach a settlement on such sensitive themes."
President Obama has faced intense Republican questioning for telling then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in March that he would have more "flexibility" to deal with the matter after the election (see GSN, May 24; ITAR-Tass, May 29).