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Russia & U.S. hold initial talks on ABMs in Europe

Amid increased tensions over U.S. plans to install a radar base in the Czech Republic and an interceptor site in Poland, officials from Russia and the U.S. have held the first round of talks in Washington on the missile shield.

Russia and the U.S. have started a series of consultations on the anti-ballistic missile defence system that the U.S. plans to deploy in Eastern Europe. A joint working group opened the talks on Monday in Washington.

The closed-door discussions are expected to centre on the Gabala radar base, located in Northern Azerbaijan, which Russia proposed to jointly use as an alternative to building new facilities in Europe.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says diplomats and military experts will hold at least two rounds of consultations before presenting reports to their presidents.

“Representatives of Russia's Foreign and Defence Ministries have set off to Washington where they will hold the first round of consultations on anti-missile shield plans with the American delegation. Two or three more rounds are expected to take place before the results are presented at the meeting between the Foreign and Defence ministers from both countries in October. A special report to the presidents of the U.S. and Russia will be prepared after the meeting.  We believe that these debates will lead to agreements which satisfy our stance on the issue,” Mr Lavrov said.

“From the United States perspective, we need to figure out how serious the Russians are in their claim, their proclamation that the offer they put forward is a mutually exclusive one, meaning that we could not continue to proceed with the agreements we have in place with the Poles and the Czechs and also proceed with the opportunities that the Russians have put forward.  I think the two sides really need to discuss that issue very thoroughly in order to find out how much room to manoeuvre both sides have,” Jeff Kueter, President of the Marshall Institute, Washington D.C., stated.

Russia has strongly opposed the planned U.S. missile shield, arguing that it's a threat to its national security. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is pushing ahead with the construction of the facilities in Eastern Europe, saying the Russian offer to use the Gabala early warning radar is under consideration. And with so much disagreement between the two sides, observers say the first formal meeting is unlikely to produce any concrete results.

It wouldn't surprise me to find out that there might have been significant and fruitful conversations taking place below the public level on the technical issues associated with the facilities and the technology that the Russians have offered as part of the partnering arrangement,


Jeff Kueter, President of the Marshall Institute, Washington D.C.

Technical discussions aside, Russia has already said that no concessions on the current offer will be made, and the U.S. cannot deploy its own missile shield and at the same time accept the Russian proposal to share the Gabala radar.

With the first round of talks on missile defence nearly wrapped up, officials say a second meeting involving the heads of Defence and Foreign Affairs agencies will take place in autumn. Co-ordinating the talks in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin recommended expanding the discussions to include the NATO-Russia council and participating European nations. 

Authorities in the Czech Republic have officially announced the exact place where the American radar is to be set up. It's a military site 65 kilometres south-east of the capital, Prague.

Theodore Postol, Professor of Science, Technology, and International Security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said to Russia Today if President Bush is truly interested in co-operation on missile defence, it's very hard to see why the Russian proposal would be rejected.

To read full version of RT interview with Theodore Postol please follow this link