U.S. can allay Russian worries on missiles

Nov. 20, 2012 at 1:22 PM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- There are measures apart for formal legal guarantees that Washington can take to allay Russian concerns about missile defense, a former U.S. envoy said.

Russia said U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe would upset the strategic balance of power. Washington says the system is needed to defend U.S. interests against rogue states such as North Korea and Iran.

Last week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told state-run news agency RIA Novosti that Washington was triggering an arms race with its missile plans. Moscow says it wants legal guarantees from Washington that missile defense systems won't target Russian defenses.

Steven Pifer, a former envoy to Ukraine now an analyst at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that such a legal guarantee wouldn't get ratified by U.S. lawmakers.

"There are other things that I think, going beyond that, the United States can do in the way of transparency that would give the Russians the ability to understand American missile-defense developments," he said.

Rogozin said the Kremlin was optimistic that U.S. President Barack Obama would offer more leeway on missile defense concerns in Europe during his second term.

"My sense is that for the last 18 months the Russians have been pretty much in a holding pattern on arms control and missile defense because they didn't want to go too far down the road with the Obama administration and then find that they were dealing with a Republican in 2013," said Pifer.

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