Friday, October 12, 2007

Missiles on the Moon?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned U.S. officials to reconsider their plan to install missile defenses in eastern Europe. Failure to do so will cause further damage to deteriorating US-Russian relations.

After keeping Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates waiting for nearly thirty minutes, Putin delivered a lengthy monologue in which he also said that Russia may feel compelled to abandon its obligations under a 1987 missile treaty with the United States.

He also seemed to mock the plan, stating that it should be built on the moon.

The Russian government sees the American missile defense plan, which is supposedly a designed to protect against missile attack from Iran, as the first step in an overall plan to weake Russian security.

Rice and Gates appeared taken aback at the firm tone and forcefulness of Putin's remarks, which were made from notes in the presence of American and Russian news media before they began a closed-door meeting around an oval table in an ornate conference room at his country house outside the capital.

On missile defense, Putin was particularly pointed in his remarks, in which he sought to lay out his view of what Rice and Gates should be discussing later Friday with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Anatoli Serdyukov.

"We hope that in the process of such complex and multi-faceted talks you will not be forcing forward your relations with the eastern European countries," the president said. He then made his remark about the possibility of one day putting a missile defense system on the moon.

Shortly before the talks with Putin began, Lavrov strolled into the house's billiards room, where American reporters had gathered, for a cigarette break. He was asked whether he expected any breakthroughs in the talks.

"Breaks, definitely. Through or down, I don't know," he said.

The American plan calls for the construction of 10 missile interceptors in Poland, linked to a missile tracking radar in the Czech Republic. The system will provide some protection in Europe and beyond for long-range missiles launched from Iran, but Russia believes the system is a step toward undermining the deterrent value of its nuclear arsenal. The Russian counterproposal calls for building a system in Azerbaijan, which is much closer to Iran.

Rice told reporters on Thursday on her flight to Moscow that the U.S. would go ahead with the program as planned.

No comments: