The United States and Russia intend to continue discussing possible means of cooperation on missile defense issues, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a joint statement yesterday (see GSN, July 6).
The Obama administration continues to assess a proposal to field missile interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic. Russia has long opposed the Bush-era proposal, which leaders in Washington say is aimed at countering a growing missile threat from Iran.
"Russia and the United States plan to continue the discussion concerning the establishment of cooperation in responding to the challenge of ballistic missile proliferation. Our countries are intensifying their search for optimum ways of strengthening strategic relations on the basis of mutual respect and interests," the statement says.
"We have instructed our experts to work together to analyze the ballistic missile challenges of the 21st century and to prepare appropriate recommendations, giving priority to the use of political and diplomatic methods. At the same time they plan to conduct a joint review of the entire spectrum of means at our disposal that allow us to cooperate on monitoring the development of missile programs around the world.
"Our experts are intensifying dialogue on establishing the Joint Data Exchange Center, which is to become the basis for a multilateral missile-launch notification regime."
The nations also sought the international community's help to prevent the spread of ballistic missile technology.
"We call upon all countries having a missile potential to refrain from steps that could lead to missile proliferation and undermine regional and global stability," the statement says (White House release I, July 6).
Obama said his administration would finish its assessment of the missile shield proposal this summer and then send Russia recommendations on how to address disputes over the effort, the Associated Press reported (Associated Press/Yahoo!News, July 6).
"I know Russia opposes the planned configuration for missile defense in Europe," Obama said today during a speech in Moscow. "My administration is reviewing these plans to enhance the security of America, Europe and the world.
"I've made it clear that this system is directed at preventing a potential attack from Iran," he added. "It has nothing to do with Russia. In fact, I want to work together with Russia on a missile defense architecture that makes us all safer. But if the threat from Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile program is eliminated, the driving force for missile defense in Europe will be eliminated, and that is in our mutual interests" (White House release II, July 7).
Medvedev said that the agreement he signed with Obama yesterday would link negotiations on the missile shield to nuclear arms reduction talks: "The joint understanding we have just signed speaks of an interconnection between offensive and defensive armaments, and this is already a step forward: even a short time ago we had only differences on the issue."
"We have adopted a joint statement on the missile defense and it is already an important result of work even though we still have differences on a number of positions," RIA Novosti quoted Medvedev as saying (RIA Novosti, July 6).
The leaders also announced a new joint presidential commission that would address arms control matters and other bilateral issues, ITAR-Tass reported. The body would be chaired by the presidents and managed by their top foreign officials (ITAR-Tass, July 6).
Obama joined Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today for discussions expected to address the missile shield dispute, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported (Deutsche Presse-Agentur/Monsters and Critics, July 7).
Russia yesterday expressed lingering discomfort with Obama's missile shield stance, Agence France-Presse reported.
"We still have questions concerning the missile defense shield," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to ITAR-Tass. "The discussions on missile defense are proceeding with great difficulty because the approaches are very different" (Agence France-Presse I/EasyBourse, July 6).
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reaffirmed Moscow's position that it would reconsider nuclear weapons cuts if the U.S. plan moves ahead, AFP reported today.
"If our partners decide to create an American missile defense system with global reach, this will undoubtedly cast serious doubt on the prospects for further strategic offensive arms reductions," Lavrov said during a television interview (Agence France-PResse II/Spacewar.com, July 7).
Obama should resolve not to begin deploying the proposed European defenses until the system is thoroughly vetted, says a letter submitted last week by a group of top scientists and engineers.
"This technology has not been adequately tested and has not demonstrated capability in a realistic attack scenario," the letter states. "None of the [Ground-based Midcourse Defense] tests have included realistic countermeasures or tumbling warheads. All flight intercept tests have been conducted under highly scripted conditions with the defense given advance information about the attack details."
Independent and official reports have determined that "any country that could field a long-range missile could also add decoys and other countermeasures to that missile that would defeat a defense system like that being proposed for Europe." The finding suggests that the system "would have essentially no capability to defend against a real missile attack," the letter says (Union of Concerned Scientists release, July 2).