A session of the Russia-NATO Council is opening in Brussels today with the missile defense issue high on the agenda. President Medvedev expressed hope before the meeting that all hurdles concerning missile defense would be cleared. The Voice of Russia’s Maria Vesnovskaya reports.
Russia has always sought to bolster global and European security, Dmitry Medvedev said. It’s pursuing the same agenda now, so differences concerning missile defense should be resolved.
"Hopefully, Russia and NATO will be able to settle their differences and continue their partnership on the basis of mutual understanding and in the interests of global security."
However, Moscow has made it clear that its position on missile defense remains unchanged and that it will keep its promise to respond with appropriate measures to the deployment of missile defense bases. NATO deems this stance as being behind the failure of missile defense talks. NATO’s Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said before the Council’s meeting that Medvedev’s moves to deploy weapons along the Russian border were triggered by the “wrong understanding of a missile defense system”. Alexei Arbatov of the Center for International Security says that Russia is not to blame for the absence of consensus on missile defense.
"Russia might be wrong on some aspects of the missile defense policy but NATO has been unable to understand many things too. Russia wants to know why NATO refuses to take into account Russia’s interests and provide guarantees that it will reconsider its missile defense program if the nuclear threat from Iran fails to materialize. If the missile defense program is designed as a nuclear deterrent, giving written assurances beforehand should only be logical. NATO’s position is not impeccable and inviolable, as the alliance’s chief claims it to be. Besides, NATO should not force its will on Russia or dictate to it, not if it wants to have Russia as a reliable partner."
US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder underscored on the eve of the Council’s meeting that NATO would not accept Medvedev’s proposal to create a sector-based missile defense system which he put forward at NATO’s summit in Lisbon in 2010. Expert Dmitry Polikanov says that Washington tends to delay taking a decision on missile defense.
"It’s up to the US to settle the controversy because it’s mainly Washington that sets the stage for creating an American-European section of the global missile defense umbrella. The course that the Russia-NATO missile defense confrontation will follow will depend on the outcome of the presidential elections in the US which will become clear by the end of next year."
However, neither the US nor its European partners seem to be willing to change their positions. General Nikolay Makarov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, made this statement on Wednesday.
"The mere idea of building a missile defense shield could worsen bilateral relations. President Medvedev, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and me, have discussed this issue with nearly all our European counterparts. Most of them referred us to the United States. But we’re talking about Europe. But they either don’t hear or just won’t hear what we have to say."
Given that this kind of uncertainly might drag the two sides into a new arms race, solutions have to be reached now, not in 2018, when the missile defense system becomes reality, General Makarov said.