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19 Mar, 2008 14:25

Russia receives U.S. written AMD proposals

Russia has received written proposals from the U.S., as part of the ongoing efforts to reach a compromise on the planned missile shield in Europe, according to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It follows talks in Moscow, which ended without an agr

Russia had expected to receive written proposals of this account on Tuesday evening, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had promised, but the Russian Foreign Ministry in fact received them on Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier both Poland and the Czech Republic echoed an invitation from the United States for Russia to deploy inspectors at planned missile bases on their territory.

Both sides expressed hope the meeting on Tuesday would be a firm step towards more talks.

The Czech Prime Minister, fresh from talks in Washington, said he would consider allowing Russian inspectors to visit the planned U.S. radar station in his country. For his part, the Polish PM said Russian military monitoring of the sites is something he would consider. Experts suggest pragmatism may be the final victor.

Western and Russian media coverage was muted, with hardly anything new coming from the high-level talks, though the news agency AFP did call the talks “upbeat” and Condoleezza Rice seemed to agree.

“U.S.-Russia relations – a complex relationship – are proceeding in such a way that we are able to go forward in various areas of co-operation, so when we have differences we can talk about them in an atmosphere of mutual respect, and we look forward to future discussions as we seek to flesh out this joint strategic framework,” said Rice.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was more guarded.

“As far as missile defence is concerned, both Russia and the United States are interested in addressing these problems in a co-operative and equal way within a framework which will unite us, the United States and Europe. The United States has confirmed its willingness to pursue its plan to set up a third positioning site in Europe. Russia, while not agreeing with this intention, put forward an alternative,” said the Russian FM.

Tug of war set to continue

One of the main arguments Washington forwards in trying to persuade Moscow of the merits of anti-missile defence is that it will not affect Russia's strategic capability. It says the planned bases in Eastern Europe are solely intended to defend against so-called rogue states, such as Iran.

The United States is not willing to accept Russia's offer to use the Gabala radar base in Azerbaijan as an alternative, saying it could only be an additional site.

Meanwhile, Washington is in negotiations with Turkey to deploy further missile tracking bases on its territory. Moscow is concerned the deployment of a system so close to its borders will pose a threat to its national security.

Russia is also concerned about other elements of U.S. defence. In 2007 the U.S. moved its sea-based X-band radar, the largest of its type in the world, to the Aleutian Islands near Alaska.

The location is believed to be optimal for monitoring potential North Korea missile launches, but its close proximity to Russia means it is possible it could also collect data on Russia's intercontinental ballistic missiles. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website accused the United States of attempting to destroy strategic stability and keep Russia in an unequal position in global affairs.

Aleksey Arbatov from the International Security Centre says U.S. defence plans effect the mindset of Russia.

“This deployment produces a very serious psychological effect. Actually, there is no difference where the ballistic missile defence is deployed – close to one’s border or far away from it,” he said.
For now, the two sides seem unable to reconcile their differences.