WASHINGTON, November 24 (Itar-Tass) —— The United States hopes for further cooperation with Russia on missile defence, Mark Toner, Deputy Department of State Spokesman, said on Wednesday, November 23.
“We’ve been clear all along, for many years now, that this system is not directed against Russia. In multiple channels, we’ve explained to Russian officials that the missile defence systems being deployed in Europe do not and cannot threaten Russia’s strategic deterrent,” he said.
Commenting on President Dmitry Medvedev’s statement that Russia may pull out of the START if U.S. develops missile defence in Europe, and may place Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad region, Toner said, “The New START Treaty benefits the security and stability of both our countries, and its implementation is going well, and we see no basis for threats to withdraw from it.”
He stressed, “We don’t see any reason for Russia to take any military countermeasures to missile defences that won’t affect the strategic balance between the U.S. and Russia.”
“We’re going to continue to try to engage with them constructively on missile defence. We want that kind of cooperation because we believe it’s in both our interests, Europe’s interests, and Russia’s interests,” Toner said, adding, “... our focus and commitment remains on how to work productively and constructively with Russia on a cooperation on missile defence.”
Toner said the U.S. missile defence reflects a growing threat to our allies from Iran that we’re committed to deterring. “Our focus is on cooperation, is on making clear to Russian authorities that this is in no way a system that’s directed at Russia. It’s directed, as I said, from a threat to our allies in Europe, and in Russia, in fact, from Iran,” he said.
Russia opposes the deployment of U.S. missile defence elements in Europe as a threat to its own strategic nuclear forces.
Moscow insists on legally binding guarantees that the missile defence system being created by the United States and NATO in Europe won’t be aimed against it.
This issue was raised at a meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher in St. Petersburg in the middle of August.
“The Russian side stressed the importance of ensuring legally binding guarantees that the missile defence system being created by the United States and NATO won’t be aimed against Russia’s strategic nuclear forces,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Tauscher had earlier recalled that two years ago in Prague U.S. President Barack Obama had declared America’s commitment to “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there was no need for a legally binding agreement with Russia that would guarantee that their missile defence systems were not directed against each other.
Speaking after a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi in early July, Rasmussen said he was convinced that all 28 NATO member states would have signed a statement pledging not to use force against each other.
Rasmussen said he personally did not think there was a need for a legally binding agreement to this effect.
In his opinion, Russia and NATO need tactical cooperation instead.
“Russia says it wants guarantees. We can give these by agreeing that our systems will not undermine the strategic balance. That they will strengthen each other’s security - and not weaken it,” Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen expressed confidence that “the best guarantee for Russia is to be part of the process. And to be connected to the system. We should focus on actual cooperation, not abstract questions. This is the best way to enhance transparency and confidence. And it builds up the mutual trust that is necessary to take the key decisions we need to take”.
NATO and Russian Defence Ministers met in late June to discuss the next steps in our missile defence cooperation. “We all understand that the foundation for our cooperation must be confidence and trust,” Rasmussen said.
“Large parts of Russia, and many Russian citizens, face a missile threat too. And NATO is convinced that cooperating with Russia on missile defence is in the interest of all of us - NATO Allies, and Russia. It makes sense politically. It makes sense practically. And it makes sense militarily,” he said.
“What does NOT make sense, is for Russia to talk about spending billions of roubles on a new offensive system to target the West. This type of rhetoric is unnecessary. This type of thinking is out of date. This type of investment is a waste of money. Because, we are not a threat to Russia. We will not attack Russia. We will not undermine the security of Russia,” Rasmussen stressed.
“The threats to Russia come from elsewhere. And our invitation to cooperate on missile defence is proof of that,” he said.
Rasmussen said there was no need for a legally binding agreement with Russia that would guarantee that their missile defence systems were not directed against each other.
Rasmussen said NATO posed no threat to Russia and was not considering it as a threat.
Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov confirmed after that meeting that there is trust between Russia and NATO on missile defence, but there are no results.
“NATO has so far not listened to Russia’s proposals on missile defence. NATO insists on building two independent systems,” he said.
According to Serdyukov, this may lead to a situation where “a missile defence system that may be created in Europe by 2020 will neutralise Russia’s strategic capabilities”.
In this case, Russia will have to “look for ways to overcome this system, which will lead to a new arms race”.
The minister believes that this is “the position of the U.S. in the first place”.
At the same time, he stressed that the dialogue will continue. “We have no other choice. Otherwise a return to an arms race will be inevitable,” Serdyukov said.
Chief of the Russian Army General Staff, General of the Army Nikolai Makarov said “unilateral steps being taken by the alliance do not add security and stability in the region”.
“We must understand clearly what is being done, what for, and when,” Makarov said.