Russia Shuns Latest Missile Defense Proposals Ahead of Medvedev Visit
The Russians have hinted that the Kremlin would prefer to negotiate the issue of a planned missile shield in central Europe with the next administration.
After talks Wednesday with visiting undersecretary for political affairs, William Burns, Russian officials said the U.S. proposals were inadequate but agreed to resume discussions in December.
Burns is the most senior U.S. official to visit Russia since the conflict in Georgia last August brought bilateral relations to a low point.
Russian newswires cited an unnamed Kremlin source as accusing the Bush administration of pushing its decision on missile defense at any cost, thus restricting the next president’s options.
The Pentagon argues for the need to provide protection against potential missile attack from terrorists or rogue states like Iran – which on Wednesday announced the successful test of a new long-range ballistic missile – but Russia suspects anti-missile shields will undermine its missile-based nuclear deterrent.
The U.S. has reached agreements to deploy elements of the system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The U.S. sent Russia new proposals for missile defense cooperation earlier this month, reportedly including a new offer to allowing Russian observers at the planned sites. But the widely-held view here is that the Kremlin hopes to persuade the Obama administration to scrap its predecessor’s plans.
The day after the U.S. presidential election, Medvedev in his state of the nation address lashed out at what he called American “arrogance.” He also announced plans to deploy Iskander short-range missiles in the Kaliningrad region, the Russian exclave bordering Poland, as a response to the missile defense plans.
Russian diplomats subsequently clarified that Moscow will deploy the missiles only if the U.S. goes ahead with the missile defense plans.
Russian defense plants will have no problems producing more Iskander missiles, Nikolai Demidyuk, deputy head of the state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport said Wednesday.
The missiles have a range of about 300 miles. If deployed in Kaliningrad’s Chernyakhovsk area, which is home to an army missile brigade, they would bring most of Poland within range – including the planned location of the missile defense interceptor facilities in the north of the country.
Medvedev is due to visit Washington on Friday to attend a summit meeting on the global financial crisis.
His press service said the president would outline Russian proposals on how to deal with the crisis and improve the world financial system.
Moscow wants a greater role in global economic issues, notably in the area of oil prices. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said this week that Russia, as a major oil exporter, must act to influence oil prices undermined by the economic situation.
Although Russia has not formally backed an OPEC policy of cutting oil production, its crude output and exports have been dropping anyway – by 0.5 percent and 6.1 percent respectively year-on-year, over the first 10 months of 2008.
Medvedev’s trip will also take him to Venezuela, where Russia is strengthening ties with the region’s most ardent anti-U.S. government.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez this week said he expected to sign a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia during the visit. It was also announced this week that Cuban leader Raul Castro will travel to Russia early next year.