Russia, U.S. fail to reach breakthrough on missile shield

March, 2008

Top officials from Russia and the United States failed on Tuesday to reach an agreement on Washington's controversial missile defense plans for Central Europe, but agreed to continue talks. The United States plans to deploy a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, which it says will provide defense against 'rogue states' such as Iran, but which Moscow views as a direct threat to its own security. "The sides' principled positions are unchanged, but we heard once again what we need to work on," Russia's Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told a news conference after the talks involving U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Lavrov said the two countries would continue consultations once Washington has finalized its proposals to Russia in written form.

Rice said the defense talks had been conducted "in an atmosphere of mutual respect," and that Gates "was able to clarify and enrich the discussion of what we had put forward to the Russians" since October, when the last talks in the '2+2' format were held. She admitted that at the previous talks, the "set of conceptual ideas" put forward by her and Gates had been somewhat altered in the written proposals subsequently given to Russia. "I do think there was some lack of clarity in the relationship between what we said and what was in the paper... Things get lost in translation" when moving from concepts to specifics, she said. Gates, in turn, told reporters that the talks had given the U.S. side "the chance to elaborate on a number of confidence-building measures to provide assurance to Russia that our missile sites and radars would not constitute a threat to Russia." He said specific proposals were being finalized in writing.

"The full range of what we are prepared to discuss with the Russians really is just now being put down on paper so the Russian side will not receive this in writing until the evening. I would expect that we will hear back reasonably quickly," he said. Lavrov called the U.S. proposals to ease Russian concerns "useful and important." "We appreciate that the United States has acknowledged our reasonable concerns, and made proposals to ease them," he said. Washington earlier offered to give Russian officials access to the proposed sites to ensure the radar is not targeted at Russia and interceptor missiles are kept non-operational until Iran's long-range missiles have been proved as a threat. Lavrov also said the negotiators had failed to agree on the future of nuclear arms reduction after the START-I treaty expires in December 2009, but pledged to work on a legally binding document in the sphere. "A lot needs to be done to draft this document," he admitted. The two sides also agreed to set up a joint strategic framework to outline different aspects of Russia-U.S. relations. Gates and Rice arrived in Moscow on Monday, and held talks in the Kremlin with President Vladimir Putin and his elected successor Dmitry Medvedev, who will assume office in May.


In related news:

Turkey set to host U.S. shield: reports

The United States is reportedly in talks with Turkey about building part of its missile shield in the country. That's according to Russian web-site. If true, the base would be part of a network including the Czech Republic and Poland. Washington claims that the anti-missile shield is to defend the U.S. and NATO from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. They say the planned bases will not cover many countries in southern Europe. Moscow has been strongly opposed to the plans and sees the system as a threat to national security. Russia has offered the joint use of a Soviet-era radar station in Azerbaijan - a country bordering Turkey - as an alternative to the bases in the Czech Republic and Poland.


Iran says U.S. missile shield in Turkey would threaten Russia

Iran's Foreign Ministry warned on Monday that the United States' alleged plans to deploy missile defense elements in Turkey could pose a threat to Russia's security. Media reports of Washington's new plans emerged after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' visit to Turkey late last month. The Pentagon confirmed that the issue of missile defense was touched on during discussions with Turkish officials. The plans for Turkey would "go against the national interests of countries in the region including Russia, and lead to an escalation of the arms race," ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said. Both Russia and Iran, which borders on Turkey, have already been riled by U.S. missile shield plans for Poland and the Czech Republic, which the U.S. says would defend against 'rogue states' such as Iran, but which Moscow views as a direct threat to its own security. Hosseini said Turkey has not yet confirmed whether the issue has been discussed with Washington. "We are convinced that Turkey - a friendly neighbor to us - will not allow non-regional states to jeopardize security and stability in the region," the spokesman concluded.


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