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Munich: a chance for an agreement in missile defense talks

04. February 2012. | 11:16

Source: Voice of Russia

On Friday the annual security conference opened in Munich, Germany. Today’s political agenda that includes the crisis in Syria, the Iranian problem and the failure of the missile defense talks give it a special importance.

On Friday the annual security conference opened in Munich, Germany. Today’s political agenda that includes the crisis in Syria, the Iranian problem and the failure of the missile defense talks give it a special importance.

Apparently, that is why despite the traditionally informal format of the conference, Secretary General of NATO Anders Fog Rasmussen, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will be taking part in this session.

Their participation adds weight to the announcement made a day earlier by Wolfgang Ischinger, the german diplomat who chairs the conference. Wolfgang Ischinger stated that in the course of the conference a «compromise solution» of the missile defense problem acceptable to the Russia side as well as to the US can be reached.

The discussion is around the proposal made by a group of leading experts of the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative that called upon Russia and NATO to agree on data exchange of missile defense information and its joint evaluation. «It is a compromise solution to the problem, acceptable to both Russian Federation and the USA» said Ischinger. Ex-foreign minister of Russia Igor Ivanov and former US senator Sam Nunn took part in the preparation of the proposal.

The initiative is more than perfectly timed. As Russian President's special representative on missile defense issues Vice-prime minister Dmitry Rogozin stated at the end of January: «At the moment there are no ongoing negotiations between Russia and the US on missile defense issue».

At the same time, NATO summit scheduled to take place in Chicago next May is supposed to approve the plans of deploying interceptor missiles in Europe that make Russia quite nervous.

On Thursday prime-minister Vladimir Putin in his interview to the 1st Russian TV channel explained in great detail why he considers missile defense systems located in Europe to be a threat to Russia. He estimates that missile defense radars deployed near Russia's borders together with anti-missile systems will cover Russian territory up till the Ural mountains and thus cover the sites of deployment of land based nuclear forces of Russia. It makes technically possible to intercept Russian missiles and «they (NATO) don't want to give any guarantees, even in writing», says Putin.

That makes brings up the asymmetric response to the European missile defense system which was announced by Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev in November 2011. The response would include deployment of «Iskander» ballistic missiles as well as other military steps. For Moscow is a forced measure. But maybe it can be avoided.

At least the latest history of relations between Russia and the West shows that crisis related to questions of principle can be overcome.

The military conflict between Russia and Georgia in August 2008 is worth recalling. Yesterday, the British TV channel BBC2 showed another episode of its film about Putin that was dedicated to that conflict.

The authors of the documentary stressed that the Russian-Georgian crisis became the most serious test of the relations between Russia and the US since the cold war.

«Perhaps, it was the most dangerous moment in Russian-American relations since the Cuban Crisis of 1962», says the American politician Steven Cohen. «The Russia-Georgian war was in essence a war between Russia and the US, and the result of that war became a turning point in the Russian-American relations», Cohen said in his interview to Russian 1st TV Channel that was aired on Thursday.

And the result is the following: US President Barak Obama suggested to «reset» the bilateral relations. What followed was the conclusion of START-3 agreement, active cooperation between Russia and the US in Afghanistan, joint sanctions against Iran.

However, the development of a mutual relationship by overcoming crisis is perhaps not the most productive way for Moscow or Washington. And if during the conference in Munich a rational solution is offered to both sides to break the deadlock in the missile defense talks, it must be utilized.


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