Russia: new U.S. anti-missiles less risky

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reacts as he recognizes a person at OSCE's annual security review conference in Vienna June 23, 2009. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia sees a redrafted U.S. anti-missile shield plan as less of a security threat than the previously proposed project, Russian agencies said Wednesday, which should ease tensions between the two powers.

Russia strongly opposed the original U.S. plans made under President Barack Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush because of concerns Iran was trying to develop nuclear missiles. Moscow saw the scheme as a threat to its own missile defenses and to its overall security.

“The new plan, proposed by Obama’s administration, creates good conditions for dialogue,” RIA news agency quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev gave a guarded welcome to Obama’s decision to alter the earlier Bush administration plan when the U.S. president made his announcement in September.

But he had said Moscow needed assurances it was not still the target. Russia’s NATO envoy had also expressed concern and suspicion at Washington’s new scheme.

“Our early estimates show it does not create risks which the third positioning region of the U.S. anti-missile shield would create,” Lavrov said Wednesday.

The Pentagon says it only wants to target small and medium-range missiles from other countries, but Moscow says it needs convincing the system will not threaten the 3,000-plus Russian strategic warheads still pointing at U.S. and NATO countries.

Russia would be concerned if the new sea-based interceptors are based in Arctic waters, the North Sea or the Baltic Sea as this would imply that the trajectories of Russian ballistic missiles could be tracked.

Reporting by Oleg Shchedrov and Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Matthew Jones