Russia, U.S. warm up on missile defense

Washington Post
By Craig Whitlock
March 21, 2011

Setting aside decades of acrimony over President Ronald Reagan’s vision of a “Star Wars” missile shield, the United States and Russia have been holding exploratory but serious talks about potential ways to cooperate on missile defense in Europe.

Russian and U.S. officials have met multiple times in Moscow and Washington since January to consider sharing data from sensors that could detect the launch of a ballistic missile from Iran or another hostile country.

Both sides have cautioned that no deal is imminent and that big differences remain. But the issue has been given a boost by back-to-back visits to Russia this month by Vice President Biden and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

“We’ve disagreed before, and Russia still has uncertainties,” Gates said Monday in a speech to Russian naval officers in St. Petersburg. “However, we’ve mutually committed to resolving these difficulties in order to develop a road map toward truly effective anti-ballistic missile collaboration.’’

Such an assessment marks a sharp turnaround from years of bitter contention over missile defense. Although Washington always has portrayed its missile defense plans as purely defensive in nature, Moscow has eyed them as a backdoor plot to neutralize Russia’s massive nuclear arsenal.

Mutual suspicions over missile defense nearly derailed the New START arms-control pact last year. Although the treaty was ultimately ratified, U.S. officials until recently were largely dismissive of the idea that there was room for cooperation with Russia on missile defense.

“There is no meeting of the minds on missile defense,” Gates told a Senate panel in June. “The Russians hate it. . . . They will always hate it, mostly because we’ll build it and they won’t.” …

Read on: