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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