Russia and U.S. remain divided over European missile shield

A day of talks aimed at breaking the deadlock between Moscow and Washington over U.S. plans for a missile shield in Europe has failed. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is now calling for the proposals to be frozen.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accepted the two sides were divided over the shield, but said she was willing to continue efforts to ease Russia's concerns.

Speaking to the media after talks, Mr Lavrov said the proposed shield should be shelved for the time being, to give experts on both sides more time to find common ground.

“At this stage we do not hide from our American colleagues that we now see at least two serious problems with their proposals. First, we still diverge about the assessment of the character of missile proliferation threat against which this third positioning region is being created. We agreed that our experts will focus on the elaboration of joint understanding of threats.  Second, we believe that for the joint work of Russian and American experts to be efficient the plans to deploy the third positioning region in Europe should be frozen,” he said.

Mr Lavrov added that Russia appreciates the U.S. readiness for dialogue but pointed out there’s still much room for further work, particularly in the area of the treaty on intermediate range nuclear missiles(INF).


We have agreed that our experts should work very urgently. The United States did come up with some new ideas that we hope are responsive to some of the concerns that Russia has had, but obviously our experts will need to work through this concept so that we can see if we can make progress on these very important issues,

U.S. Secretary of State,
Condoleezza Rice

“In summer this year we put forward our own proposals on how to save this treaty and make it viable. Today our American colleagues made their own proposals and we think that is a step in the right direction.   But it’s insufficient. We expressed our common willingness to work together on the issue, how how to make this treaty viable,” Mr Lavrov said.

For her part, Secretary Rice said the U.S. understands Russian concerns, reiterating the American position that the anti-missile system is not aimed at Russia:

“About the issue of Poland and Czech Republic, the U.S. is engaged in discussions and negotiations with our allies and those will continue. We will work during this time to address Russian concerns about the nature of the system, about what is a not yet shared view of the missile threat. We believe that we can address those concerns and we are prepared to do it. Many of the ideas that we have go to the heart of trying to address Russian concerns both about how we come to a shared understanding of a missile threat and how we give some transparency and indeed certainty to Russia that this is not the system that is aimed at Russia,” Condoleezza Rice explained.

She also said the joint efforts of experts from both sides could be a way out of the crisis.

“We have agreed that our experts should work very urgently. The United States did come up with some new ideas that we hope are responsive to some of the concerns that Russia has had, but obviously our experts will need to work through this concept so that we can see if we can make progress on these very important issues,” Mrs Rice said.

Meanwhile experts believe the United States will be reluctant to change its stance despite declarations about their willingness to find a compromise.

“It is unlikely the U.S. will change track. The talks will continue but the Republicans in general are very tough in their attitude. If the plans to establish stations in the Czech Republic and Poland have been announced, they cannot step back because it will be a sign of weakness. We can expect some trade-off, some attempts to find some concessions from each other and to search for some common ground – at least until the term of this administration expires,” says Konstantin Beloruchev from Moscow State University.

While others are inclined to see a positive sign in the very fact of 2+2 negotiations.

“I think that the compromise, in fact, has already been reached because these 2+2 consultations were taken in 2002 and this is the first meeting after that so this is a compromise already. I don’t think that there will be far-reaching concessions,” believes Irina Kobrinskaya, an analyst from the Institute of World Economy and International relations.