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Top US Military Officer Arrives in Moscow for Talks

The top U.S. military officer is in Moscow for talks on missile defense, arms control and other issues in advance of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to the Russian capital in 10 days.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said the U.S. desire to put a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, which Russia strongly opposes, will be a key topic of his talks in Moscow.

"Clearly the issue of missile defense is something that's been a significant topic and issue for Russia and the United States and that will, I'm sure, be something that we talk about," he said.

The admiral said he will be seeking a better understanding of the Russian military's view of the missile defense plan, which top Russian political leaders have sharply criticized.

Mullen's talks come just days after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said there will be no progress on broader arms control talks unless the United States abandons the European missile defense plan. The renewal and expansion of a strategic arms reduction treaty that expires in December will be the primary topic for the Obama-Medvedev summit.

U.S. officials say the missile defense system does not threaten Russia or its defenses, but rather is designed to counter the growing missile threat from Iran.

But Admiral Mullen says while missile defense and arms control will be on his agenda when he meets senior Russian military officers and defense ministry officials during the next two days, he believes there are also many other topics to discuss.

"We have areas of common interests, whether it's security interests in Afghanistan, the area of piracy, the area of terrorism," he said. "Those are the kinds of things that I'm sure we'll have robust discussions on. And there will I'm sure be discussions on the areas we differ on. And I think it's important to continue those discussions as well to understand each other's positions."

This is Admiral Mullen's first visit to Moscow as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But because of the importance of security issues for the upcoming U.S.-Russia summit, a spokesman says President Obama has taken the unusual step of asking Admiral Mullen to return to Moscow in early July to join him at those meetings.