Russia has signalled that a change in US plans for a
European anti-missile shield could help the two sides make
progress towards resolving a dispute that has frayed their
Last week, the United States announced it would station 14
new anti-missile interceptors in Alaska after North Korea
threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike, and forgo a new
interceptor that would have been deployed in central Europe.
Cold War-era foes Moscow and Washington have long been at
loggerheads over the shield in Europe. President Barack
Obama's move in 2009 to scale down earlier,
Bush-administration plans only offered a short-lived respite.
Russia's main concern is that the European shield would
weaken its nuclear deterrent.
Russia's point man for U.S. relations, Deputy Foreign
Minister Sergei Ryabkov, said he planned changes brought a
new element to the issue. He called for further dialogue,
noting Moscow still had concern that US missile defences
could threaten its security.
Ryabkov's remarks were more upbeat than Russia's initial,
critical reaction to US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel's
announcement of changes in US global missile defence plans.
"There is no unequivocal answer yet to the question of what
consequences all this can have for our security," Ryabkov
"The causes for concern have not been removed, but dialogue
is needed - it is in our interest and we welcome the fact
that the American side also, it appears, wants to continue
this dialogue," he told reporters.
In Brussels, a senior US defence official said Russia was
"not a factor" in the US decision to change missile defence
plans but there was hope it would allay Russian misgivings.
"Does this change their perception of US intent ... with the
missile defence programme? We would certainly hope so and
would welcome such a change, but only they, in the end, can
decide," said the official, briefing journalists on the
condition that he was not further identified.
"We hope they will give it serious consideration and then
come, we hope, to the correct conclusion that this is further
evidence that NATO's missile defence plans ... do not
US plans for anti-missile defences have ruffled relations
with Russia since Ronald Reagan's 1980s presidency and caused
more tension since US President George W. Bush pulled out in
2002 from a Soviet-era treaty limiting their development.
Obama helped usher in a period of warmer relations with a
2009 decision to scale down the Bush blueprint for a European
anti-missile shield. But Moscow soon began warning that the
revised US plans also presented a threat.
Ties between Moscow and Washington, both veto-wielding
members of the UN Security Council, have soured since the
return of Vladimir Putin, a former KGB spy, to the Kremlin
last May. There have been disputes over human rights and
security issues, including the war in Syria.
Washington says the anti-missile shield it has begun to
deploy in Europe in cooperation with NATO nations is meant to
counter a possible threat from Iran and poses no risk to
But Russia has said the shield would eventually enable the
West to shoot down some Russian intercontinental ballistic
missiles, tipping the post-Cold War balance of power, and has
aired suspicions that this is the underlying aim of the
In its first official reaction, the Foreign Ministry said on
Monday that Moscow would stick to its demand for binding
guarantees that the system would not threaten Russia's
Washington is highly unlikely to satisfy that demand because
of concerns about circumscribing any American missile defence
development or giving the Kremlin a say in US defence policy.
Ryabkov said the United States had given Russia more
information about its plans during his talks in Geneva this
week with Rose Gottemoeller, the US acting under-secretary of
state for arms control and international security.
"The material is interesting - it brings something new into
this situation," Ryabkov said. "(But) I would not venture to
say now whether the decisions made by the (US) administration
are a plus or more of a minus."