BRUSSELS Russia remains highly suspicious about NATO plans to set up a strategic missile defense system in Eastern Europe. During meetings Thursday with NATO officials, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow still needs precise, hard guarantees that NATOs new system will not be directed towards Russia.
Despite Russias concern about the project, the United States plans to continue with preparation for the first two bases, in Romania and Poland. Washington says it plans to work with Russia, and hopes to use Russian radars as part of the project.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATOs general secretary, declared that Russia and NATO are not enemies, and will not be attacking each other. Lavrov, however, called NATOs assurances absolutely insufficient, and said that Moscows leadership strategy, in this situation, is trust but verify.
It is crucial that we complete a joint agreement regarding military-technological specifications of the entire U.S.-NATO missile defense system as concrete assurance that the system is not directed against any European Country, including the Russian Federation, said Lavrov. The Russian official said it is important also that the defense shield is being constructed in accordance with its announced goals, meaning the neutralization of missile threats from outside Europe. He did not discuss how Russia would respond if it did not receive those assurances.
Bring a flash drive
At the same time, a whole line of ministers from NATO members expressed serious concern about Russias intention to put a missile complex in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave nestled between Lithuania and Poland, in response to the expansion of NATOs missile defense system into Poland.
Rasmussen said there would not be a misunderstanding between Russia and NATO if they were to actively collaborate regarding the missile defense system. He once again offered to create two information exchange centers to jointly evaluate risks and prepare research.
Moscow, however, doesnt consider the offer sufficient, and prefers that Russia and NATO should jointly create a missile defense system. NATO is not prepared for that. Rasmussen insisted Thursday that the information centers would be more than enough for Russia to see with its own eyes that the missile defense system is directed elsewhere.
A source at NATO reminded Kommersant that Russia can already access the technological specifications of the U.S. missile defense system, and that there is already a standing invitation for Russian experts to visit the American missile-interceptor test site in Colorado Springs. I dont understand why the Russians refuse to go, the NATO employee said. We are ready to show them everything - just put a flash drive in our computers.
But a source in Russias foreign ministry said that NATOs invitation was nothing but fiction. Theyll let us see the missiles with binoculars, and there wont be anything important on the computers, the diplomat said. The U.S. Congress has forbidden the military from giving Russia any classified information on the missile defense system. As as long as they dont trust us, an inspection would be useless.
Read the original article in Russian
Photo - Ed Brambley