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GORKI, December 5 (Itar-Tass) —— President Dmitry Medvedev’s statement on the U.S. missile defence system in Europe was met by Russians with rare unanimity, the head of state said, adding that it was not motivated by elections.
“I do not know how all this will be eventually interpreted, but I can say one simple thing that should set us all thinking: it has been a long time since I saw such unanimity on the position of the president of the country,” Medvedev said at a meeting with his supporters on Monday, December 5.
“Everyone, left and right, young and old, support tough measures. There demand for that,” he added.
“After I made the statement I heard all the time that this was done in order to strengthen the position of United Russia before the elections and my own position during transformation of power, that this was done for situational reasons. Now that the elections are over, I would like to say to all our people that this was an absolutely well considered statement, I had been thinking about for a long time, I did not want to make it but I had to,” the president said.
Russia has 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.”
The United States hopes for further cooperation with Russia on missile defence, Mark Toner, Deputy Department of State Spokesman, said earlier this month.
“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 the 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.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Russia and NATO need tactical cooperation instead.
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.
“The threats to Russia come from elsewhere. And our invitation to cooperate on missile defence is proof of that,” he said, adding that 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”.