Monday, February 8, 2010

NYT: Russia Cool to U.S. Plan for Missiles in Romania

February 6, 2010


MOSCOW — Russian officials reacted coolly on Friday to the news that Romania had agreed to host American missile interceptors starting in 2015, with a top envoy saying that the announcement could directly affect Moscow’s position as negotiations to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or Start, reach their conclusion.

Dmitri O. Rogozin, Russia’s permanent representative to NATO, said the United States had not fulfilled its promise to consult Russia on developments in the missile defense system. He suggested that the interceptors could pose a threat to Russia’s security, while noting that both Romanian and American officials went out of their way to assure Moscow otherwise.

“It seems to be in line with Freud’s theory — it means they have some thoughts that the system could be targeted against Russia, otherwise why would they dissuade us about something we never asked about?” he said.

Though the general outlines of the new missile defense plan — including the staging of land-based interceptors in Europe — were made public months ago, Russian officials made it clear that they were taken aback by the announcement of Romania’s role. Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov said the Russian and American presidents had agreed that the “threats and risks of missile proliferation will be assessed jointly as a first step.”

“We expect our American partners to provide exhaustive explanations on those issues in the context of this dialogue,” the Interfax news service quoted Mr. Lavrov as saying at a news conference in Germany, where he traveled to attend the Munich Security Conference.

The announcement came at a sensitive moment. At the Munich conference, Mr. Lavrov has meetings planned with Iran’s foreign minister, and he has suggested that Russia may be ready to consider sanctions against Iran if he is not satisfied with the response in their discussion about Tehran’s nuclear program.

And with the Start renegotiation, a central project in the “reset” between the countries, in its final stages, Russian leaders have repeatedly said missile defense remains a stumbling block.

Russian analysts said the SM-3 interceptors planned for Romania posed no threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrent, since they target medium- and short-range missiles. But that might change when a second generation of interceptors is put in place in 2018, a possibility that makes Moscow wary, because the United States is under no obligation to share data about the system, said Sergei M. Rogov, director of the Institute for the U.S. and Canada Studies in Moscow.

“Here comes the question of transparency,” he said. “Why is the U.S. making a decision again without consulting with Russia?”

The announcement is not likely to derail Start negotiations, Mr. Rogov said, but could jeopardize talks that negotiators hoped would follow, including deeper cuts to strategicnuclear weapons. The news from Romania came, he said, amid various signs of “reverse movement” in the “reset”: Start negotiations have dragged on, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton rejected Russian calls for a new European security structure, and Poland and Sweden called for Russia to withdraw its nuclear missiles from Kaliningrad.

“Additional issues are overloading the ‘reset,’ which is not moving very far or very fast,” Mr. Rogov said. “So I am concerned about it.”

Those concerns were underlined when Russia released its new military doctrine, approved on Friday by President Dmitri A. Medvedev. The document, which guides military policy for a decade, identified the American missile defense system as a major threat to Russian security, saying it “undermines global stability and violates the current balance of nuclear forces.” Another central concern of the document was the continued expansion of NATO and the organization’s attempt “to globalize its functions in violation of international law.”

Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting.

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