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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Russia to warn US over missile defence system

Andrew Osborn [The Telegraph]

Mr Biden was due to fly into Moscow on Tuesday evening with a mission to inject fresh impetus into the so-called "reset" in US-Russia relations after the two countries agreed a landmark nuclear arms reduction treaty last year. 
He will meet President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday and hold talks with Vladimir Putin, Russia's powerful prime minister, on Thursday. But though both countries are keen to talk up his visit, Russia is expected to issue a stern message to Mr Biden in private.
"Our Nato partners are refusing to assign Russia an equal role in the general design of a European missile defence system," Dmitry Rogozin, the Kremlin's top diplomat at Nato, said prior to Mr Biden's visit. "We will not tolerate a situation in which we would have to join an already finished system." 
President Barack Obama diluted Washington's original plans to build a missile defence shield around facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic in the face of fierce Russian opposition. Russia had complained that the new shield was a threat to its own nuclear deterrent.
It now says it is acutely worried about how a revised missile shield might look and is insisting that Moscow, Washington and Nato design and build such a shield together as "equal partners". But its overtures have been politely rebuffed so far amid concerns in the West over Russia's reliability as a political and military partner. It appears that the Kremlin's patience is now starting to wear thin and that it sees Mr Biden's visit as a crucial opportunity to convey the seriousness of its message.

"We have to come to an understanding whether we are together or we are absolutely not together by June," Mr Rogozin warned.

Famous for his fiery nationalist rhetoric, Mr Rogozin has said in the past that Russia does not want a new arms race with the West but has argued it will have no choice but to bolster its own nuclear defences against the West if it is shut out of the new system.

"If we fail to reach an agreement, the consequences will be extremely grave, in terms of fuelling an arms race, and in terms of throwing our relations far back into the past," he said.

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