Wednesday, November 21, 2007

US "Thanksgiving Proposal" to Russia: Missiles, Treaties, and Troops

On the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, the United States submitted a proposal to Russia for cooperation on missile defense in eastern Europe against a supposed threat from Iran.

The U.S. also submitted a proposal to Russia that would hopefully prevent Russia’s withdrawal from a key European arms control treaty.

Officials on both sides have declined to release copies of the documents. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov are expected to discuss them early next week in advance of Middle Eastern peace talks.

The documents describe U.S. plans to develop a radar system in the Czech Republic and to deploy missile interceptors in Poland, and also address Russia’s plans to suspend participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE).

The U.S. claims that the missile defense system would counter the threat of Iranian missiles that could be aimed at Europe or U.S. territory. Russia, on the other hand, contends the U.S.-proposed system also could be used against Russian missiles, which would make it a threat to its nuclear deterrence.

A key component of the missile system proposal is a delay in the activation of the U.S. missile interceptors until it can be shown that Iranian ballistic missiles pose a threat to Europe.

In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed the sharing of a Russian-leased early warning radar in Azerbaijan with the United States.
The proposal for delaying the activation of the interceptors has apparently been favorably received by Russian negotiators who also insist that the offer include a binding treaty that would detail specific terms for activation. The United States would likely object to such a demand.

The CFE imposes limits on the deployment of tanks, aircraft and heavy conventional weapons across Europe. Negotiators agreed to revise the treaty in 1999, but the United States and other NATO members have not ratified it.
The U.S. position is that Russia must fulfill obligations to withdraw forces from Georgia and from Moldova's separatist Trans-Dniester region before the CFE issue can be addressed. Russia insists that there should be no such link.

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