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Kremlin upbeat over U.S. defense talks

Aug. 8, 2013 at 12:35 PM

MOSCOW, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Russian government officials expect bilateral talks with their U.S. counterparts will be constructive despite recent diplomatic frays, a deputy minister said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are scheduled to meet Friday with their respective U.S. counterparts, Chuck Hagel and John Kerry, in Washington.

The Kremlin said missile defense issues would be on the negotiating table during the Friday talks.

Bilateral strains have emerged as a result of U.S. plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. The Kremlin said it wants assurances its national interests won't be targeted.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Thursday he expected the talks would be friendly.

"Despite the new developments in U.S.-Russian relations, we expect the consultations to be constructive and allow us to prepare the next steps in the strengthening of strategic stability," he was quoted by state news agency RIA Novosti as saying.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the Armed Services Committee, told Pentagon officials he was concerned by U.S. military ties to Russian arms export division Rosoboronexport. The Defense Department ordered military helicopters for Afghanistan from the division, though Cornyn said it was also providing weapons to pro-governments forces in Syria.

President Barack Obama this week canceled a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin because of concerns over political affairs in Russia and the fallout from the surveillance scandal surrounding Edward Snowden, a former U.S. intelligence analyst granted temporary asylum by the Kremlin.

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