US missile decision threatens Russia arms talks
Russia has attacked a decision by the United States to site interceptor missiles in Romania, saying the move imperils President Barack Obama's much-vaunted "reset" of relations between the two countries and the final stages of nuclear arms reduction talks.
The Kremlin said it was taken aback by news that Romania's top military body had agreed to host US SM-3 interceptor missiles and other military infrastructure in response to an alleged missile threat from Iran.
Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said he had demanded an "exhaustive explanation" from Washington, citing a treaty that would prevent US ships delivering the necessary equipment via the Black Sea.
Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's ambassador to Nato, said on Russian state television: "How can we stay calm when alien military infrastructure, US military infrastructure, has come to the Black Sea area?"
Mr Obama last year dropped a Bush-era plan to install a missile defence shield in the Czech Republic and Poland. Russia, at the time, hailed that decision as "brave", viewing it as a diplomatic victory.
Kremlin officials say they are deeply disappointed that Washington did not consult Moscow about the Romanian missiles. They were similarly nonplussed last month when the US confirmed it was planning to place Patriot missiles in Poland, close to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. The disagreement comes as Russian and US negotiators finalise a pact that will make deep cuts in their nuclear arsenals.
Sergey Ivanov, Russia's deputy prime minister, warned the Romanian move would complicate those talks.
"It is impossible to talk seriously about a reduction of nuclear capabilities when a nuclear power is working to deploy defensive systems against nuclear warheads possessed by other countries," he said.
Yesterday, the head of Nato said the alliance should develop closer ties with China, India, Pakistan and Russia and become the forum for consultation on global security.
Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: "What would be the harm if countries such as China, India, Pakistan and others were to develop closer ties with Nato? I think, in fact, there would only be a benefit, in terms of trust, confidence and cooperation. . . Nato can be the place where views, concerns and best practices on security are shared by Nato's global partners." (© Daily Telegraph, London)