BRUSSELS, July 20 (Itar-Tass) —— The discussion between Russia and NATO on missile defence has gained a positional character, Russia’s Acting Permanent Representative at NATO Nicholas Korchunov said in an exclusive interview with ITAR-TASS on Friday.
"The missile defence system in Europe remains a stumbling block in our relations with the alliance. Finding mutually acceptable solutions to this problem is still possible, although the window of opportunity has been shrinking steadily. We have offered NATO a variety of formulas for joint action in this area, but until now we have not seen willingness of partners to consider our concerns," he said.
"The dialogue both bilateral and within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council moves very difficultly, principled positions of the parties are not modified and it is not quite clear how these positions can be docked. Actually, we are exchanging arguments and there is a position discussion, which does not allow hoping we can soon reach an agreement. But nobody is refusing discussions," Korchunov said.
According to him, for Russia, "essential are reliable, based on clear military-technical criteria legal guarantees of non-targeting of deployed missile defence system against the Russian nuclear deterrent." Assurances about not being directed, which are expressed in the declaration of the NATO summit in May in Chicago, "can be seen as a step in the right direction, but however, purely political statements of the kind cannot become a basis for cooperation", he continued.
It is difficult to expect a solution to the missile defence after the presidential election in the U.S., even if Barack Obama is re-elected, Korchunov believes. "The U.S. has been moving for years towards creation of its own missile defence system. Today, we do not see any factors that could cause them abandon their approaches,” he said. “The situation could be changed radically only if the United States agreed with our proposal: to have Russia and the United States and Europe equal participants in this process. Then, we would create together a missile defence system, would have an opportunity to analyse threats together, and can manage jointly the system, make decisions on its use."
During the computer command exercises in Germany in March, Russia and NATO experts "were able to see the joint missile defence system is more effective in repelling missile threats" rather than two independent missile defence systems of Russia and NATO.
"If we follow this route, we shall have a unique opportunity to open a brand new page in relations with the United States and NATO, to put into practice, not in words, the principle of indivisibility of security. We are ready to continue the dialogue and to search for acceptable solutions on this basis. However, as the U.S. plans for missile defence are embodied "in iron", the time to find a compromise is less and less," he said.
Korchunov disagreed with the thesis that since the establishment of the NATO-Russia Council in May 2002, our relations with the alliance had got confrontational. "Over the past decade we have gone through different periods, including very difficult ones. And while we still have serious differences, we have been able to move forward on several fronts, especially in the development of practical cooperation in countering common challenges and threats - terrorism, piracy, natural and man-made disasters, on Afghanistan," he said. "Generally speaking, I am deeply convinced that the NATO-Russia Council is a unique platform for frank, all-weather exchange of views on the entire spectrum of our relations, with no secret issues. It is to our common interest to reveal the potential of the NATO-Russia Council, which is still far from being used fully. For that, we need to invest actively in development of joint projects in areas where our interests meet, not to reduce the pace of the political dialogue, to apply every effort to find ways to enhance mutual confidence and predictability in our relations", the diplomat concluded.