‘No missile defence proposal from US’

Moscow has not received any written proposals from Barack Obama’s administration concerning the deployment of elements of the US anti-missile defence system in Eastern Europe.

“We have not received any written proposals,” said the deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov.

Earlier, Kommersant Daily reported that President Obama had told his Russian counterpart there would be no US defence systems in Eastern Europe if Russia changed its position on the Iranian nuclear programme.

Ryabkov confirmed, however, that “the American administration has expressed readiness to reconsider the situation with the missile system in Europe in exchange for a decision on the Iranian nuclear problem satisfactory to the American administration, but no further steps have been made on the US part.”

It is not even clear whether the issue is going to be raised at the negotiations between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and America’s new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on March 6.

The question of the Iranian nuclear programme is of major concern to the US and its closest Middle East ally, Israel. Both accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons.

The first Iranian nuclear power plant in Bushehr, which Russia has been constructing for Iran since 1995, is nearly ready and is expected to be put into operation by the end of 2009. The US says Iran will use this plant not only for electricity generation, but also to obtain the plutonium necessary for producing nuclear weapons.

Consequently, Russia says that all nuclear waste will be taken back to Russia for conversion, thus stripping Iran of the chance to potentially collect plutonium from the reactor.

Manas airbase

A KC-135 Stratotanker takes off from Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Julie Layton)

Another stumbling block is the US air base at Manas airport in Kyrgyzstan, which the Kyrgyz parliament has decided to close and which the US would like to remain open. Americans believe that Russia stands behind the decision of the Kyrgyz authorities to close the base down, while Russia says it is not within its power to influence the Kyrgyz authorities to order the Americans out of Manas. In his letter of response the Russian president chose not to mention the issue of Manas airbase at all.

Medvedev and Obama have agreed to meet in person in Moscow over the most pressing issues. The date of these talks is yet to be decided and will be announced on April 2, during the first personal meeting of Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama in London.

US-Russia relations reset

The statement of US vice president Joe Biden to reset relations with Russia made at the Munich Security Council less than a month ago, has been widely discussed, while a different statement made in the very same speech has somehow been omitted.

Biden’s Munich speech also said that the US refuses Russia the right to have interests in ex-Soviet states, such as Georgia and Ukraine, as otherwise this would lead to complications in NATO expansion.

It seems that NATO expansion using former Soviet states and Russia’s interests in the states that border Russia will take the central role in the upcoming Russia-US talks, particularly if the US administration is seeking Russia’s co-operation regarding Afghanistan.