The Bush administration said Monday it remains open to dialogue with Moscow on U.S. European missile-defense plans despite Russia's angry response to the signing of a U.S.-Polish agreement on the issue last week. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Rood lamented Russia's threat to target Poland with nuclear weapons. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
The U.S. Russian-relationship has chilled noticeably over Russian intervention in Georgia and Moscow's bitter reaction to the U.S. missile defense deal with Poland.
But Undersecretary Rood says he see no indication Russia intends to pull back from nuclear arms control agreements with the United States, and says Washington will keep trying to assuage Russian concerns about the missile defense program.
Rood was a key figure in negotiations with Poland on the agreement signed last week in Warsaw, under which U.S. interceptor missiles will be based in Poland as part of a regional defense system aimed against a potential attack from Iran or another rogue state.
In his first talk with Washington reporters since last Wednesday's signing, Rood said the United States remains open to transparency arrangements including Russian site visits to ease Moscow's stated concern the system undercuts its strategic deterrence.
But Rood, noting that Poland would have to approve Russian inspections on its soil, termed Moscow's threats to Poland last week "disappointing," and added they only complicate the process.
"Some of the statements from Russian officials such as threatening to target Poland with nuclear weapons and things of that nature have certainly made this a much more difficult issue to deal with," he said. "As I mentioned, the host governments retain the sovereignty and the legal right to decide who visits their territory. Threatening to target them with nuclear weapons is not something that's generally viewed positively, to say the least."
The U.S. plan calls for 10 interceptor missiles to be based in Poland, linked with an advanced radar system to be placed in the Czech Republic.
Rood said there can be no lack of understanding in Moscow that Russia's acknowledged arsenal of some 850 strategic missiles, many with multiple warheads, is not jeopardized in any way by the pending installation in Poland.
"The Russian government understands the limited capabilities of this system," he said. "We have had unprecedented discussions that have explained the technical capabilities of the system. I think, on the face of it, they understand [that] 10 interceptors in Poland would have no impact on the Russian strategic offensive forces. They know the capabilities of this system and they know it does not pose a threat to Russia."
Rood said he could not be precise at this point about the number of U.S. service personnel required to operate the missile defense system in Poland, but that it would be in excess of 100.
He said additional U.S. troops would run the Patriot air-defense missile battery committed to Poland as part of the companion U.S.-Polish strategic cooperation accord signed last week.