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EXTRACT: Russia, increasingly emboldened by new oil wealth…
Apr 23 07:46 AM US/Eastern

Russia rebuffed Monday an attempt by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates to soften opposition to Washington’s plan for a missile defence shield in Europe, saying it threatens global security.

Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told Gates in Moscow that the planned system “is a seriously destabilizing factor that can have a significant influence on regional and global security.”

Gates, who also met with President Vladimir Putin, came to Moscow reiterating Pentagon reassurances that the anti-missile shield would not be aimed at Russia and also holding out offers of cooperation.

“In my talks with the Russian leaders we’ll reiterate that the United States is willing to explore cooperation with Russia across the full spectrum of missile defence activities,” he said.

Gates told Serdyukov that he wanted “to see how we can more positively develop our military-to-military relationship.”

However, there was little sign of progress in easing Moscow’s opposition.

“I would like to underline the point that the Russian position with respect to this issue remains unchanged,” Serdyukov said.

The Pentagon wants to station 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a targeting radar in the Czech Republic, countries that lie close to Russian territory and during the Cold War were under Moscow’s control.

Russia, increasingly emboldened by new oil wealth, fiercely opposes the plans, regarding them as encroaching into Moscow’s traditional sphere of influence.

The missile defence issue has threatened to divide Washington’s NATO allies in Europe.

Germany has said Washington must work to ease Russian concerns, while the Czech Republic and Poland have asserted that Moscow has no right to interfere.

Ahead of Gates’s visit, the United States has assembled a package of incentives aimed at allaying Russian concerns, said officials travelling with the defence secretary.

These incentives, already presented last week, include an offer to share missile warning data and cooperate in developing and testing missile defence technology with the Russians.

“We outlined a series of areas where we might be able to cooperate with Russia and this involves both sharing of information and potentially of technology,” said a senior administration official.

“It includes things like sharing sensor data for early warning, common research and development, testing of various components of systems,” said the official, briefing reporters aboard his plane.

The United States insists that existing defences need to be extended to protect against attack from “rogue states” such as Iran and North Korea and says its missile shield plans are not directed against Russia.

Russia’s Vedomosti business daily stressed that Moscow was not interested in cooperation.

What Moscow really wants is to begin negotiating new agreements on limiting strategic weapons, including a renewal of the START 1 treaty that entered into force in 1994 and has a 15-year duration, the report said.

“Discussions on this theme are needed by Russia due to the increasing lag of its strategic forces behind America’s and because this is the only international problem where Moscow can look like an equal partner of Washington,” Vedomosti quoted a Russian analyst as saying.

After his meetings, Gates will travel to Warsaw to confer with Polish officials and also stop in Berlin to touch base with German leaders.

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