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Russia’s concerns over missile defence in Europe understandable - opinion

December 07, 2011, 21:45 UTC+3
Russia has opposed the deployment of U.S. missile defence elements in Europe as a threat to its own strategic nuclear forces
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BERLIN, December 7 (Itar-Tass) — Russia’s concerns over missile defence in Europe is understandable, Philipp Missfelder, Spokesman for Foreign Affairs of the CDU/CSU Fraction and Member of the German Parliament, said.

“In Russia many politicians and ordinary people take the creation of the missile shield in Europe as something that is directed against them and for this reason mistrust this idea,” Missfelder said in an interview with Suedwestrundfunk Radio on Wednesday, December 7.

In his opinion, the deployment of the missile defence system in Europe is a “bold step” from the political point of view.

However he thinks that its creation is a correct and justified decision designed to protect the continent from potential dangerous states such as Iran.

Russia has opposed 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 earlier this year.

“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 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.

However Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a televised address on November 23 that Russia would take strong measures, such as enhancement of its strategic capabilities and deployment of attack systems, in response to further implementation of U.S. plans to create missile defence in Europe.

He said Russia would reserve the right to give up further disarmament and arms control measures and might withdraw from the START Treaty.

Medvedev stressed that if other measures prove insufficient, Russia would deploy modern attack systems in the west and south of the country which will be able to destroy the U.S. missile defence elements in Europe. He mentioned in particular Iskander systems in the Kaliningrad region.

Rasmussen believes that if Russia starts investing heavily in countermeasures against an enemy that does not exit, it will only waste money that could otherwise be used for the needs of the Russian people and modernisation.

He said relations between Russia and NATO have developed actively over the past year but admitted that progress on missile defence was slower than expected.

Rasmussen expressed hope that the alliance and Russia will be able to reach a compromise on missile defence at the NATO summit in Chicago in the spring of 2012.

These issues will be discussed at a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council at the level of foreign ministers on December 8.






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