MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin on Wednesday rejected U.S. proposals aimed at easing concerns over a missile defense system in Europe and said it would try again to resolve the row once Barack Obama is in the White House.
Russia says the planned U.S. system will threaten its national security and that the administration of George W. Bush, which leaves office in January, has failed to allay its concerns.
“Russia is ready to cooperate with the United States on European security but considers the proposals that were sent are insufficient,” Itar-Tass news agency quoted an unidentified Kremlin source as saying.
“We will not give our agreement to these proposals and we will speak to the new administration,” said the source, who was quoted by Russia’s three main news agencies, an indication the remarks reflect official policy. The Kremlin press office declined to comment.
The Bush administration “is intent on putting the new U.S. president in a hopeless situation, so that he should take responsibility for what they concocted without him,” Tass quoted the source as saying.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last week he planned to deploy missile systems near Poland’s border in retaliation for U.S. plans to install elements of the proposed missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Washington says the shield is needed to protect the United States against missile strikes from what it calls rogue states, specifically Iran.
“We’ve been very clear with regards to the intent and purpose of the missile defense site in Europe and what it’s designed for and have offered any number of ways and means to mitigate some of the Russian concerns,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters
He said Iran’s announcement on Wednesday that it had test-fired a new generation of surface-to-surface missile was another reminder of the importance of establishing the shield, “to defend the U.S. and Europe against a threat that is developing in Iran.”
President-elect Obama has said he would make sure the system had been proven to work before deploying it — a more cautious approach than the Bush administration, which has been pressing to have the system operational as soon as possible.
The U.S. had previously proposed confidence-building measures that included allowing Russian representatives access to sites where the missile system is to be deployed and providing real-time video monitoring of activities at the sites.
Senior U.S. officials said this week they were planning to discuss the proposals with their Russian counterparts soon.
The rejection of Washington’s proposals came on the same day that William Burns, the third-ranking official in the U.S. State Department, was in Moscow for talks — the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit since Russia fought a war with U.S. ally Georgia in August.
Additional reporting by Paul Eckert in Washington, Editing by Mark Trevelyan