U.S.-Russia missile dialogue: room for compromise

One of the major events this past week was the visit of U.S. Foreign and Defence Secretaries Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates to Moscow to discuss the thorny issue of American missile defence plans in Europe. Although the meeting ended without agreement,

Before the meeting, both sides sought to downplay expectations. During the talks, they praised their 2 x 2 format as very productive. But at the end, they continued to stand their ground.

Neither Russia nor the United States brought anything new to the negotiating table. Neither made any concessions. They are still at loggerheads over U.S. plans to install its missile defense system in Eastern Europe – a >move that Russia perceives as a threat to its security.

“As far as missile defence is concerned both Russia and the United States are interested in addressing these problems in a cooperative and equal way in a framework that will unite us, the United States and Europe. The United States 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 Foreign Minister Lavrov.

Yet, despite the obvious lack of progress, the Russian officials seemed quite pleased. In their talks with the Americans, they used to be up against the clock but now time is on their side.

Out of the U.S. presidential contenders, only John McCain unreservedly supports the current plans for defence sites in Europe. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have expressed reservations about the plan, which leaves the Russian side hopeful that the U.S. missile plans will be grounded before taking off.