Gates: Missile Defense Cooperation Will Deter Future Foes

MOSCOW, March 22, 2011 — Euro­pean mis­sile defense was one of the top issues here today as Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates met with his Russ­ian coun­ter­part Ana­toly Serdyukov and lat­er with Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Dmit­ry Medvedev.
In a grand guest house on the grounds of the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion Min­istry of Defense, Gates, Serdyukov and 20 offi­cials, diplo­mats and pol­i­cy experts met to dis­cuss the way for­ward on a range of tech­ni­cal issues, chief among them Euro­pean mis­sile defense.

Ministry of Defense Guest House in Moscow
U.S. Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and Russ­ian Defense Min­is­ter Ana­toly Serdyukov con­duct a press con­fer­ence at the Min­istry of Defense Guest House in Moscow, March 22, 2011.
DOD pho­to by Cherie Cullen
Click to enlarge

“An issue of great impor­tance to both of our lead­ers is estab­lish­ing a frame­work for Euro­pean secu­ri­ty that can strength­en sta­bil­i­ty, pre­dictabil­i­ty and secu­ri­ty for all nations on the con­ti­nent,” Gates said at a news con­fer­ence after the meeting. 

“We con­tin­ue to have an inten­sive dis­cus­sion on mis­sile defense coop­er­a­tion,” the sec­re­tary added, “and although we still have dif­fer­ences that need to be resolved, we con­tin­ue to make progress with­in a bilat­er­al frame­work and explor­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to coop­er­ate through the NATO-Rus­sia Council.” 

Serdyukov said through an inter­preter that the lead­ers spent much time on mis­sile defense “because this is one of the issues which nei­ther we nor our U.S. coun­ter­parts have a sim­ple and unequiv­o­cal answer to.” 

After the Lis­bon Sum­mit of the NATO-Rus­sia Coun­cil in Novem­ber, he said, “we face new capa­bil­i­ties for coop­er­a­tion. Today we shared our views on the pos­si­ble ways to address this issue and we have a com­mon under­stand­ing that coop­er­a­tion is bet­ter than confrontation.” 

Serdyukov and Gates agreed that experts in a spe­cial work­ing group would con­tin­ue such discussions. 

Lat­er, at Medvedev’s dacha about 45 min­utes out­side Moscow, Gates and his wife Becky dined with Medvedev and sev­er­al oth­er U.S. and Russ­ian officials. 

Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell said about half of the hour-long con­ver­sa­tion focused on mis­sile defense. 

“The sec­re­tary told Pres­i­dent Medvedev that we are sin­cere in our belief that the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia ought to imple­ment the Euro­pean mis­sile defense plan togeth­er, Mor­rell said. 

“We can do this in a way that improves NATO and Russ­ian secu­ri­ty,” Gates told the Russ­ian pres­i­dent. “I think we can do this togeth­er to both of our benefits.” 

Gates “expressed to Pres­i­dent Medvedev his belief that if we are able to coop­er­ate on mis­sile defense, it would send a pow­er­ful sig­nal to rest of world, Mor­rell said. 

The sec­re­tary said it would be help­ful not just in deal­ing with the threat ema­nat­ing from Iran, but from unknown threats that may emerge from the upheaval in the Mid­dle East. “This would be a strong deter­rent to future foes,” Gates told Medvedev. 

A senior defense offi­cial who attend­ed the din­ner said Medvedev indi­cat­ed that “the Rus­sians are gen­uine­ly inter­est­ed in coop­er­a­tion, but at the same time they remain con­cerned about the effects of our Euro­pean phased-adap­tive approach [for mis­sile defense] on their own strate­gic deter­rence down the road.” 

Accord­ing to a White House fact sheet on U.S. mis­sile defense pol­i­cy, the approach is based on an assess­ment of Iran’s mis­sile threat and a com­mit­ment to deploy proven, adapt­able tech­nol­o­gy to an evolv­ing secu­ri­ty environment. 

The mis­sile defense archi­tec­ture fea­tures deploy­ments of increas­ing­ly capa­ble sea- and land-based mis­sile inter­cep­tors and a range of sen­sors in Europe, the fact sheet says, adding that the four-phased approach address­es today’s threats but could quick­ly be adapt­ed to respond to evolv­ing threats. 

Gates “under­scored [Pres­i­dent Barack] Obama’s sin­cere com­mit­ment for suc­ceed­ing and find­ing basis for coop­er­a­tion on mis­sile defense as a NATO-Rus­sia project,” the defense offi­cial said. 

The sec­re­tary said the goal is to find a way for Rus­sia to be an equal part­ner with the Unit­ed States and oth­er allies and offered some con­crete ideas for how the sys­tem can be made to work in practice. 

Gates, the offi­cial said, not­ed that beyond Iran, which has been the focus, upheavals today in the Mid­dle East could pose oth­er threats down the road and “it would make sense for us to begin now to estab­lish the basis for work­ing togeth­er to counter these kinds of threats.” 

Putting U.S. and Russ­ian offi­cers side by side in a coop­er­a­tive frame­work, the sec­re­tary told Medvedev, would give the Rus­sians more trans­paren­cy about U.S. pro­grams and allay many of their con­cerns about effects on their deterrence. 

“The sec­re­tary end­ed on quite a pos­i­tive note,” the defense offi­cial said. “He was very opti­mistic that he could make this work and I think [Gates and Medvedev] agreed that we have to lis­ten to one another’s ideas.” 

Medvedev, Serdyukov and Gates agreed that the U.S.-Russia defense work­ing groups would recon­vene in ear­ly April, the offi­cial said. 

“Ser­dukov remind­ed the sec­re­tary that they would see each oth­er at the June NATO-Rus­sia Coun­cil defense min­is­ters meet­ing in Brus­sels, and that they would both try to make con­crete progress by that time,” he added. 

At the out­set of the dis­cus­sion, Mor­rell said, there was recog­ni­tion and appre­ci­a­tion on both sides that the U.S.-Russia rela­tion­ship has been trend­ing in a pos­i­tive direction. 

“The reset has had an impact over the past two years,” Mor­rell said. “The over­all pro­gres­sion in the rela­tion­ship is allow­ing dis­cus­sions about some of these ideas to per­haps be more fruit­ful than they were in the past.” 

This is typ­i­cal of Gates whose prac­ti­cal approach Mor­rell described as “method­i­cal, keep mov­ing for­ward, keep engag­ing, keep try­ing to make progress, find areas of agree­ment and build upon those.” 

Mor­rell added, “As Sec­re­tary Gates said to Pres­i­dent Medvedev and ear­li­er to Min­is­ter Serdyukov, ‘We don’t pro­fess to have revealed truth on this mat­ter. We have some ideas, we put them forth, but we are open to con­sid­er­ing oth­er ideas on how to reach a point where we can coop­er­ate on the system.’ ” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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