US and Russia Disagree over Zones of Control for Missile Defense

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemeoller and her Russian counterpart Anatoly Antonov.

From Walter Pincus, the Washington Post:  Before the November NATO-Russia Council meetings in Lisbon, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev asserted three principles for a shared NATO missile-defense agreement: Russia would be a full partner, there would be shared early-warning data (such as shared sensors), and there would be assigned zones of responsibility for protection.

[Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose] Gottemoeller described it as a "sincere but not serious" proposal that U.S. military planners said "would not fly" in part because the Russians do not have a missile-defense system to protect their own territory nor a sector of NATO countries in the 2015-2020 time frame.

Nonetheless, NATO working groups and the NATO-Russia Council are studying what the threat looks like, the prospect of shared early-warning data and potentially shared radars, including those operated by Russia, Gottemoeller said.

"There’s a very, very fast pace of activity," she said, "and I do think that both Moscow and Washington are really intent, as are our NATO allies, in getting off the ground quickly and completing these joint threat assessments and then in moving on to look at joint concepts and really trying to figure out how to put all these pieces together."

At his annual news conference last week reviewing world affairs, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed that his country’s creation of a common missile shield with Europe was key to improving relations with the West. "I am convinced that creating a common missile shield is the real and more important test for the sincerity of statements that security is indivisible," he said.

Behind this new talk of cooperation, the Russians have planted the threat of withdrawal if they are not treated as equal partners. Medvedev told the NATO-Russia Council: "Either we are fully involved, share information, are responsible for solving certain problems, or we do not participate at all."

For emphasis he added, "But if we do not participate at all, for obvious reasons, we will be forced to defend ourselves."  (photo: Reuters)

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