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BMD Watch: Russia may talk to Obama on BMD

Berlusconi fears 'escalation' of US-Russian tensions
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Thursday that he fears "an escalation" in tensions between Russia and the United States over Washington's plans to install an anti-missile defence system in eastern Europe. "We need to ensure that the two parties meet," Berlusconi told a press conference in the southern town of Naples, adding that he feared "an escalation in the resistance between Russia and the US." "I am convinced that the United States certainly has the right to defend itself if it sees a threat to its security," the Italian premier said. Berlusconi had said Wednesday that the United States should "change its approach" on the anti-missile system as it "cannot allow itself to slip towards a cold war with Russia." Berlusconi claimed US president-elect Barack Obama, who takes office in January, had told him that he planned to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as soon as possible. "Mr Obama is the first to recognise that nobody could help as much as me in this endeavour," Berlusconi told Italian daily La Stampa. The administration of US President George W. Bush wants to deploy an anti-missile radar in the Czech Republic and 10 missile interceptors in Poland by 2013-2014, drawing stinging criticism from Moscow. Washington insists the facilities are needed to protect against "rogue states" like Iran, but Moscow has portrayed them as a threat to its security. Within hours of Obama's November 4 election triumph, Medvedev threatened to position missiles near the border with Poland in response to the planned missile shield.
by Martin Sieff
Washington (UPI) Nov 13, 2008
Russian leaders are moving quickly to offer an olive branch to the incoming Obama administration in the hope that it will agree to scrap the planned ballistic missile defense base in Poland meant to protect the United States and Western Europe against the future threat of nuclear-armed Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In a sign that the long diplomatic freeze on the BMD issue between Washington and Moscow is likely to thaw once President-elect Barack Obama takes office in January, RIA Novosti reported that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said Wednesday the two sides had already approved the revival of negotiations on strategic security and missile defense next month.

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in early November to prepare for the new round of ballistic missile defense talks and other strategic negotiations, RIA Novosti said.

Also, a Kremlin official told RIA Novosti Wednesday that Russian leaders were optimistic on reaching an agreement with the new Democratic administration. However, they wanted to hear first what President Obama and his team will propose to them after taking office.

During the yearlong U.S. election campaign, Sen. Obama, D-Ill., and his advisers expressed skepticism about the value of building the BMD base in Poland. The Democrat-controlled 110th Congress, unwilling to publicly clash with President George W. Bush on the issue before the Nov. 4 presidential election, slashed large sums that the White House wanted to allocate to the program in the Fiscal Year 2009 budget but did not try to kill it.

Russian policymakers, familiar with these developments, clearly regard them as positive and are signaling that they are prepared to deal with Obama and his team.

"A compromise is still possible," the Russian official told RIA Novosti.

"However, the current U.S. proposals are insufficient ... because the Bush administration is seeking to make the decision (on the deployment of the missile shield) irreversible and ... leave the new U.S. president without an alternative, putting on him the burden of responsibility for something that was decided without him," the official said.

The Bush administration announced Nov. 6 it had presented a new set of proposals to try to reassure the Kremlin that its plans to position 10 Ground-based Mid-course Interceptors in Poland, with an advanced radar tracking array in the neighboring Czech Republic to guide them on to their targets, were not aimed at Russia. But over the past two years Russian leaders have repeatedly rejected such claims and the Bush administration did no better this time, especially as the proposals were made two days after Obama's historic election victory, which automatically put the Bush White House into lame-duck status.

RIA Novosti noted that the Russian government was sticking to its determination to refuse to negotiate any further with the Bush administration on the BMD bases issue. Instead, it is withholding any comments on the U.S. proposals until Obama takes office two months from now.

The Kremlin official also told RIA Novosti that Russia wanted future talks on the BMD in Europe issue to involve the European Union as well and that any unilateral actions to build it, such as the Bush administration had sought, would remain unacceptable.

RIA Novosti said a lasting settlement on the issue would have to be established on a basis of respect for common interests between the United States, Russia and the European Union.

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Kremlin rejects US missile defence proposals: reports
Moscow (AFP) Nov 12, 2008
Russia cannot accept US proposals on missile defence and will take up negotiations with the next administration of Barack Obama, a Kremlin official quoted by Russian news agencies said Wednesday.

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