U.S. appeals for flexibility on missiles

Russia must be more flexible about U.S. plans for a missile shield in eastern Europe, according to American Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who’s arrived in Moscow for talks with President-elect Dmitry Medvedev. Russia says the shield threatens its nation

Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have met with Russia’s President-elect Dmitry Medvedev, ahead of four-way talks with the Russian foreign and defence ministers on Tuesday.

The sides have discussed the U.S. anti-missile shield, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and the North Korea nuclear issue.

During the talks Dmitry Medvedev said he thinks Moscow and Washington can bring their positions on missile defence closer together.

He also stressed the importance of the continuity of relations and predicted a tense conversation between Russian and US officials at a meeting on Tuesday.

“As you say we have many subjects to cover. There are many in which we are already working together and we can strengthen those. And there are those where we have disagreements we can see that we can make progress. With a broken arm I will not be difficult to negotiate with,” Robert Gates said.

Next on the agenda is senior U.S. officials’ meeting with outgoing President Vladimir Putin.

Both countries have had a strained relationship in recent years. Some observers call it one of the lowest points in relations between the states.

“This is not a cold war. We should find a new word for it – neglect of Russia. Dangerous era, much of it comes from U.S. government and the U.S. media,” U.S. news anchor Dan Rather believes.

U.S. accusations of Russia’s backsliding on democracy, different positions on Kosovo’s status, NATO’s expansion – there are plenty of sticking points.

The U.S plans to deploy part of its missile defense system in Poland and Czech Republic. They claim it will secure Europe against possible threats from Iran.

Russia opposes the move and calls it a threat to national security.

“The U.S. plans, ten interceptors in Poland and radar in Czech republic, poise no threat to the deterrent capability of Russia. The problem is the U.S. Missile Defense is an open system with a huge potential for expansion. Question is how far is U.S. planning to go!” Vladimir Dvorkin from the International Relations and Economics Institute.

With the U.S. as a leading member of NATO the alliance has already gone far into Eastern Europe. And now Ukraine may possibly be joining the alliance.

“A solution is needed. First, in order to remove the so-called missile defense crisis from the agenda, but also to ease tensions in the relations between Russia and the U.S.,” Vladimir Dvorkin believes.

Aleksandr Pikaev from the Institute for World Economy and International Relations says that the U.S. and Russia face pressure from the international community to agree on arms control measures. “Beyond this quite excessive agenda in the area of arms control there is another long list of issues including original problems like the Mideast, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and some global issues like energy security,” he added.