U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday touched down in Russia, where he was expected to make another effort to assuage the Kremlin’s concerns about a planned European missile shield, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, March 18).
Under the Obama administration’s plan for NATO missile defense, land- and sea-based Standard Missile 3 interceptors with increasingly advanced capabilities would be gradually deployed around Europe as a hedge against potential missile attacks from the Middle East.
While Moscow is less opposed to the Obama plan than an earlier Bush-era proposal to field 10 long-range missile interceptors in neighboring Poland, the Kremlin continues to suspect the United States of secretly planning to undercut Russia’s strategic forces. The first phase of the Obama plan is now under way with the deployment to the Mediterranean of a guided missile carrier outfitted with an advanced missile tracking radar (see GSN, March 2).
Gates is set to hold discussions with Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who in February said the planned NATO missile shield might threaten the deterrent capacity of Russian nuclear weapons.
Gates said U.S.-Russian ties have come a long way since the Cold War, and each country has taken steps to increase transparency and build trust in order to reduce chances for misunderstandings that could result in unintended incidents (Lolita Baldor, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, March 21).
Moscow and NATO agreed in November to study potential missile defense collaboration, though disagreements remain on what any possible cooperation would entail.
President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday renewed his call for the establishment of a joint missile defense system with NATO, Interfax reported.
“This system must not be created in an abstract way, on paper, or online, but in the context of the current situation, including our participation or non-participation in the proposed European missile shield,” Medvedev said to senior Defense Ministry officials.
The United States has offered to share early warning missile threat information with Russia while declining to consider a system that would put any NATO member’s missile security in the hands of Moscow (see GSN, Feb. 18; Interfax, March 18).