Luxembourg (AFP) April 24, 2007
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday said the planned US missile shield could destabilise Europe and called for a joint analysis of the "threat". "What we see in the American offer are several aims which do not address the principal, that is a joint analysis of the threat," he told reporters in Luxembourg after meetings with european leaders in the Grand Duchy.
"One gets the impression that everything has already been decided in Washington."
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates offered Russia cooperation on missile defence activities Monday but was swiftly rebuffed by Moscow.
Europe itself had not been consulted, Lavrov said a day after talks here with European leaders including his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
"We don't really see a way of joining the project, we don't see what interest there is in that," he added.
Meanwhile in Moscow, the head of the Russian military also gave the proposal his thumbs down.
"Robert Gates who came to Moscow yesterday (Monday) said that the anti-missile shield in Europe was targetting neither Russia nor any other country," General Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of staff of the Russian military told a news conference.
"We clearly see that the US anti-missile defence shield is being created to target Russia and we will never take part in it," he said.
The United States insists that existing defences need to be extended to e,p3,rema.ana.hkgd.maxprotect against attack from "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea and says its missile shield plans are not directed against Russia.
Russia has adamantly opposed plans to station 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a targeting radar in the Czech Republic, countries that lie close to Russian territory and were once under Moscow's control.
Nonetheless, Gates said Monday he remained "cautiously optimistic" after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and even held out the possibility of co-locating a radar with the Russians.
Lavrov made his comments ahead of a meeting in Oslo Thursday of NATO foreign ministers, including US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, where extending the missile shield project will be discussed.
The missile defence issue has threatened to divide Washington's NATO allies in Europe.
Germany has said Washington must work to ease Russian concerns, while the Czech Republic and Poland have asserted that Moscow has no right to interfere.
Parts of the system are already set up in Britain and Greenland.
earlier related report
Speaking in Poland, which is considering hosting interceptor missiles as part of Washington's planned missile defence system based in Eastern Europe, Gates continued his efforts to convince Moscow that the scheme was not counter to its interests.
"In terms of assurances that the system would not be changed years from now in a way that might be more threatening to the Russian deterrent, it seems to me that is a matter that can be negotiated," he told a press conference.
Gates provided no details and it was unclear whether the scope of such negotiations would involve the broader US missile defense system, or only the proposed European component.
His comments came as it was announced that US President George W. Bush would meet his Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski in Warsaw on June 8 to discuss the system, which the US claims would deter a potential threat from Iran.
Gates has invited the Russians to inspect a US interceptor missile site in Fort Greely, Alaska and a radar in California to clear up what he said was Russian misunderstanding about the capability of the system being proposed for Europe.
"Clearly, they have questions about the capabilities of the radar, and I think those are questions that we can answer," he said.
The US has proposed siting 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a targeting radar in the Czech Republic by 2012. They would be oriented toward ballistic missile threats from the south.
Polish Defence Minister Aleksander Szczyglo, who joined Gates in a press conference after they held talks here, said Warsaw was prepared to host the missile defence site if it enhances Poland's security.
"This US project should increase the level of security in Europe, specifically in Poland," Szczyglo said.
The US defence chief also sought to allay Polish concerns that hosting the missiles could bring retaliatory measures from Russia, which is riled by the US plan to extend the defense system to its backyard.
He said he did not believe that Russia is a military threat to Poland "either now or should we install a missile defense."
"I said in Russia we aren't talking about tomorrow or next year but what the world will look like in 10 or 20 years. The world changes in dramatic ways and what we are talking about here is indivisible security for the United States and our NATO allies," he said.
"We would like to extend that umbrella to Russia and partner with Russia, to have Russia be with us in this program," he said.
Despite repeated rebuffs from Russia, Gates said he was "cautiously optimistic" after his talks Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov and Defence Minister Anatoly Serduykov.
He said the two countries could explore new concepts and technologies, conduct joint research and development of missile defence systems, share missile early warning data, and improve their forces' ability to operate together on missile defence.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday however told reporters in Luxembourg the planned US missile shield could destabilise Europe and called for "a joint analysis of the threat."
"One gets the impression that everything has already been decided in Washington," he said, adding, "We don't really see a way of joining the project, we don't see what interest there is in that."
The plan has also unsettled some US allies, including Germany, which Gates is scheduled to visit on Wednesday before returning to Washington.
He was due to hold talks with President Kaczynski before leaving Poland.
An opinion poll published by the CBOS agency found that six in 10 Poles are opposed to the system and only 25 percent favor it.
earlier related report
"This US project should increase the level of security in Europe, specifically in Poland," Szczyglo said, after holding talks on the proposed missile shield with his US counterpart, Robert Gates.
Gates had arrived in Warsaw Tuesday from Moscow for talks aimed at getting Polish leaders to begin formal negotiations on the missile shield, which Washington says would be vital to defending Europe and the United States against attacks from the Middle East, and Iran in particular. Washington wants to site 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a targeting radar in the Czech Republic as part of the system, which has already been deployed in the United States, Britain and Greenland.
Formal talks have not yet begun, but the Polish government has expressed interest in the project. "The success of negotiations depends on one thing: negotiations can be successful if the level of Poland's security is increased" by housing the system, Szczyglo said. But he added: "What has been presented to Poland is only a proposal and it would be groundless to forecast what may or may not happen."
Gates agreed with Szczyglo that "any arrangement on missile defence with Poland should enhance Poland's security."
He sought to allay fears that Washington's plan to site missiles in Poland would make the country a target of attacks from Russia, which has been riled by the US plan and threatened to retaliate against countries that host the system in its backyard.
"I don't think Russia is a military threat to Poland, either now or if we had the missile system in place here," Gates told reporters outside the defence ministry in Warsaw. "I said in Russia we aren't talking about tomorrow or next year but what the world will look like in 10 or 20 years. The world changes in dramatic ways and what we are talking about here is indivisible security for the United States and our NATO allies," he said.
Gates was due to meet Polish President Lech Kaczynski later Tuesday.
earlier related report
At Thursday's one-day meeting, Rice will also voice Washington's strong backing for a UN proposal to grant independence to Serbia's NATO-protected province of Kosovo despite Moscow's staunch opposition to the move, senior US officials said.
The East-West frictions should be on prominent display when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov joins his North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) counterparts for an afternoon meeting of the NATO-Russia council.
"I'm not going to deny they're thorny issues," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
But he and other senior officials played down the likelihood of a US-Russia clash marring a meeting which has become a routine feature of trans-Atlantic diplomacy.
"I don't think that will really effect the atmosphere measurably," McCormack said.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was in Moscow this week to defend the US proposal to place 10 unarmed missile interceptors in Poland and a linked radar in the neighboring Czech Republic, but to little apparent effect.
Washington insists the network is aimed not at countering Russia's strategic missile deterrent but rather at neutralizing the threat of ballistic missiles possibly tipped with nuclear weapons being wielded by rogue states like Iran.
Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdukov said he was unconvinced after his talks with Gates on Monday.
"We believe the strategic missile defense system is a seriously destabilizing factor that can have a significant influence on regional and global security," he said.
US President George W. Bush weighed in on the issue with a subsequent phone call to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, though details of their conversation were not released.
US officials express optimism the Russians will eventually accept a plan for cooperation in the missile defense arena, including the possibility of sharing early warning data that could emerge from the Czech radar site.
"The language of their public statements, their public arguments, is more polemic than strategic," said the State Department's top Europe official, Dan Fried.
"I believe that when the Russians consider this strategically, they may come around to realize that it's in their interest to work with us," he told a recent seminar in Washington.
NATO allies had also voiced concern about the possibly destabilizing effect of the missile defense scheme, but appear to have been reassured by US explanations of the plan during meetings last week in Brussels.
On Kosovo, it may prove harder to calm Russian objections.
Moscow has firmly rejected a plan put forward by UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari for phased independence for Kosovo, an overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian enclave which is also the historic heartland of Serbia.
The province of two million has been guarded since 1999 by a NATO force that would continue to play a key role in the region under Ahtisaari's plan.
Russia argues, with support from some Europeans, that freeing Kosovo from Serb rule would set a bad precedent for other separatist-minded regions, notably in the restive Caucasus.
Rice will counter in Oslo that denying independence to Kosovo's Albanian majority will lead only to more insecurity, senior aides said.
"One way or another the status quo will end," said Fried, arguing that the process can be either controlled under UN and EU auspices, or be violent and "chaotic" as Kosovar Albanians act unilaterally.
Thursday's meeting will also focus on Afghanistan, where 35,000 troops from NATO and other allies are bracing for a Spring offensive by the Islamist Taliban militia.
While urgent NATO requests for more troops to counter a resurgent Taliban have largely been met, McCormack said Rice would address ways to better coordinate military and civilian efforts to support the Afghan government.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Moscow (RIA Novosti) Apr 25, 2007
Consultations at NATO headquarters in Brussels have revealed that Europe is unanimous on the issue of hosting an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system. Official sources noted that high-ranking NATO officials fully agreed that there was a potential missile threat to Europe. NATO bureaucrats at the NATO-Russia Council were also practically unanimous in a bid to convince Russia that the system did not pose a threat. Moscow, however, remains unconvinced.
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