Q.: In what particular areas can Russia and the U.S. cooperate on missile defense? Does Washington consider the possibility that the two countries could jointly operate the Russian radar station in Gabala, Azerbaijan, and its S-300 and S-400 air defense systems?

A.: Secretary of Defense Gates and other senior defense officials have already pointed to the possibility of some form of link between Russian radars at Armavir, at Gabala, to provide additional data and early warning information that could benefit both of us in defending against ballistic missile threats. Exactly how these links would be established and how it would work technically is of course for the experts. But I think that the basic idea of sharing this kind of information against a common threat makes sense. And of course it could be just the beginning of a program of cooperation between NATO and Russia or between the United States and Russia on missile defense.

Q.: The U.S. missile shield plan reportedly envisions the deployment of some of its elements in the Caucasus. Could it be in Georgia, Azerbaijan, or some other state?

A.: We are just at an early stage of designing this system and we are just beginning consultations with the allies in the southeast European region, as well as all our allies who could be part of the system in the long term. So, it’s really too early to comment on what countries might be participants in this system. I think that General O’Reilly, the head of our missile agency has emphasized that one of the keys to this system is to have an early warning radar relatively close to Iran, within a thousand kilometers of Iran, to provide an immediate detection of a launch, so that the the rest of the system could do good work trying to intercept the missile before it hits its target.

Excerpt from Interfax interview with U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow. (photo: U.S. Department of Defense)