Washington, keen to allay Moscow’s fears over its planned missile defense system, has invited Russians to visit its Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and participate in tests, a newspaper said yesterday, while Russian Foreign Minister says talks with the West over the system are “going nowhere.”
Russian interaction with NATO is going well with the exception of the issue of missile defense, “on which, unfortunately, we are going nowhere,” Sergei Lavrov told a press conference after a meeting with his counterpart from Luxembourg. U.S. and NATO officials have expressed hope for an agreement in time for a NATO summit in the United States in May, but talks in Moscow earlier this month between the chief Russian and U.S. negotiators ended with no sign of progress.
U.S. plans call for an anti-missile system to be deployed in four phases by 2020, with interceptor missiles and radars at sea and in several European countries. The White House says the shield is needed to protect against potential threats from counties such as Iran and would pose no danger to Russia. Russia says the system would leave it vulnerable if the interceptors can shoot down the nuclear missiles it relies upon as a deterrent against attacks. Moscow is demanding binding guarantees that the shield would not undermine its security. The U.S. says it could not provide such guarantees even if it wanted to because they would require approval by Congress.
‘US invites Russia to Colorado’
Meanwhile, according to Russian daily Kommersant, the U.S. administration invited Russian officials to see themselves that the system poses no threat to Russia. Citing sources, the Kommersant broadsheet said Russia was skeptical about the possible results of U.S. proposal and was in no hurry to accept the offer. “The United States has invited Russian technical specialists to visit a Missile Defense Agency base in Colorado Springs with their own equipment and to see for themselves that the U.S. missile shield does not pose a threat to Russia,” the newspaper quoted a diplomatic source in one of the NATO member countries as saying. “There has not been a reply from Russia so far however.” The agency’s Integration and Operations Center is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Citing sources, Kommersant said Washington had invited a delegation of Russian defense officials led by Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov to visit the Colorado Springs-based command. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov confirmed to Kommersant that his country had received the offer but declined to offer details. More importantly, said the newspaper, Washington invited Russians for the first time to participate in missile tests scheduled to take place in the Pacific next spring, with the invitation being signed by MDA head Patrick O’Reilly.