Medvedev wants specific U.S. missile proposals

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is expecting specific U.S. proposals on missile defense, one of the main bones of contention between Moscow and Washington, to discuss at his first meeting with President Barack Obama.

A soldier salutes Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as he visits the headquarters of the Siberian Military District in Chita February 19, 2009. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool

The new U.S. administration has said it wants to “press the reset button” on relations with Russia after ties between the two countries sank to a post-Cold War low during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Russia, still smarting from what it sees as years of gains by Washington and NATO at its expense in the former communist world, has reacted cautiously.

In particular, Moscow wants to see what the United States will do with the Bush administration’s plans to station systems in NATO allies Poland and the Czech Republic to detect and shoot down hostile missiles. Russia says this threatens its security.

Medvedev said in an interview given to Spanish media he had received signals from the Obama administration that it wanted to approach the issue of anti-missile weapons in a “more creative and cooperative” way than its predecessor.

“We have already received such signals from our American colleagues,” Medvedev said, according to a transcript of the interview posted on the Kremlin website

“I expect those signals to take the form of specific proposals. I hope that during my first meeting with President ... Barack Obama we will be able to discuss this issue, which is a very pressing one for Europe,” he added.

Medvedev is expected to meet Obama on the sidelines of the G20 summit of industrialized and developing nations in London next month. The leaders have spoken by phone on two occasions.

The United States has signaled that if Russia is willing to help dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons -- one of the main threats the anti-missile system is designed to stop -- then it could slow down deployment.

Russia has indicted that it will not implement plans to station short-range missiles in its enclave of Kaliningrad bordering Poland if the United States does not deploy the anti-missile system.

Writing by Michael Stott; Editing by Janet Lawrence