Washington will not provide Moscow with any legally binding guarantees on the European missile shield because the U.S.-led NATO project does not involve Russia in any way, a senior U.S. State Department official said.
Recently-appointed Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman reiterated in an interview with Russia’s Kommersant newspaper published on Wednesday that the shield is designed solely to defend NATO members against ballistic missiles from “rogue states” such as North Korea and Iran, and would not be directed at Russia.
Sherman, who is known as a North Korean expert and diplomatic troubleshooter, visited Moscow last week to discuss bilateral relations, including missile defense, with Russian officials.
The diplomat said that the United States understands Russia’s concerns and could still give Russia political reassurances on the issue and allow the Russian experts to monitor the first tests of the European missile shield in 2012 using their own equipment.
Sherman also expressed hope that the sides would be able to sooner or later overcome their differences and reach an agreement that would suit both Russia and NATO.
Russia and NATO tentatively agreed to cooperate on the European missile defense network at the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, but the differences in approaches toward the project’s architecture led to a deadlock in negotiations.
NATO insists there should be two independent networks that exchange information, while Russia favors a joint system with full-scale interoperability.
Russia maintains staunch opposition to the planned deployment of U.S. missile defense systems in the Mediterranean, Poland, Romania and Turkey, claiming they would be a security threat.