Coming to ground zero of opposition to U.S. plans for a national
missile defense system, a high-level American delegation met Friday
with Russian officials to discuss the divisive plan.
A member of the delegation said the fact that the two sides
were talking showed progress, but a Foreign Ministry spokesman
dismissed the talks as raising more questions than answers, and
a top general threatened countermeasures if the United States
goes ahead with the system.
Russia vehemently opposes President George W. Bush's intentions
to build the missile defense system, which is contrary to the
1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which Russia says is the foundation
of global security. The United States argues the system is needed
to protect against nuclear attacks by small so-called rogue countries.
The U.S. delegation, led by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz,
met at the Foreign Ministry with a Russian interagency committee
created to shape the Kremlin's response to Bush's intentions.
Stephen Hadley, a deputy U.S. national security adviser, said
the delegation "put forward and elaborated on some of the points
the president made" and said Friday's meeting was just the first
step in a discussion that is expected to take weeks and to involve
Bush and President Vladimir Putin personally.
"We began to give them some answers to their questions," Hadley
said. The delegation left Moscow later Friday.
But Alexander Yakovenko, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry,
said the talks only underlined Russian concerns.
"The American side has so far failed to produce convincing arguments
that would persuade us that it has a clear vision of how to handle
international security issues without disrupting the arms control
arrangements that have been established over the past 30 years,"
Colonel General Valery Manilov, first deputy chief of the Russian
General Staff, said both sides "must jointly find a way out of
the mistaken U.S. decision" and said Russia could take countermeasures
if the plan goes ahead.
"Russia possesses the technical, intellectual and technological
potential to asymmetrically ensure the interests of its security
and the security of its allies in case of the unilateral withdrawal
of the U.S. from the ABM treaty," he was quoted by Interfax as
The core argument of keeping the ABM treaty, which restricts
the United States and Russia each to one tightly localized missile
defense system, is that a country will not launch a nuclear strike
if it cannot defend itself against retaliation.
Manilov's remarks suggested that Russia's response to a U.S.
system would be to increase and upgrade its nuclear arsenal to
have the potential to overwhelm the system.
Advocates of the U.S. system argue the ABM Treaty is outdated
and that concern about small missile attacks is legitimate. Hadley
said for Americans who lived through the Gulf War and saw the
effect of Scud missiles, "the threat has a certain reality and
urgency that maybe is not shared."
A leading lawmaker said earlier that the Kremlin should be flexible
in its response to the Bush proposal.
"We should not, gritting our teeth, oppose the very idea of NMD,"
said Vladimir Lukin, a deputy speaker of parliament and former
Russian ambassador to Washington. "Our stand should be flexible
in this case," he told Ekho Moskvy radio.
See the original at http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2001/05/14/017.html