In what appeared to be a show of Russia's willingness to use different resources and methods to counter what Moscow sees as U.S. "containment," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chief of General Staff Yury Baluyevsky spoke almost simultaneously on what is probably the most troubling issue between Moscow and Washington.
Even the choice of venues seemed to be telling: while Lavrov was addressing a seminar organized by Carnegie Moscow Center to mark the 200th anniversary of Russia-U.S. diplomatic ties, Baluyevsky talked to Russian media at RIA Novosti, one of Russia's major news agencies.
They spoke separately about the most topical issue on the current Russia-U.S. agenda.
U.S. readiness to compromise
Baluyevsky: "Washington is firmly set on deploying its missile defenses in Europe, which means that the current U.S. administration will not respond positively to Russia's initiative [on moving the radar to Gabala, Azerbaijan]."
Lavrov: "A planned European missile defense base fits, like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle, in a picture of the global U.S. missile defense system located - accidentally or not - around Russia's borders. I do not think that this is accidental."
Baluyevsky: "What [the U.S.] is doing right now is ... the "third site." Where will the "fourth," the "fifth" be? They will [follow after the third], I assure you."
The role of prospective Central European defense shield hosts
Lavrov: "Right now, we are facing what is all too easy to perceive as an attempt to re-create a sanitary cordon to the West of Russia's borders. Favoritism in this part of Europe creates an unhealthy atmosphere, encouraging nationalist sentiments, which are the main threat to European unity."
Baluyevsky: "Let us be blunt - the Poles fear that, should we reach an agreement [with Washington on Gabala], their illusion of having earned some special preferences by cozying up to the U.S. will be shattered."
Lavrov: "I know many people in Europe who are rightfully concerned about the negative consequences of a U.S. national missile defense system in Europe for the process of global disarmament."
If the U.S. goes ahead with its Central European plans
Baluyevsky: "We are saying quite openly that if we get no response to our proposal...., then everything will be clear. In fact, the entire world will see the real purpose of the "third site" in Poland and the Czech Republic, and who its perceived targets are."
Lavrov: "Then our view - that the establishment of a 'third site' in Europe is not intended to address a threat from Iran - will just be confirmed."
Broader vision of Russia-U.S. relations
Lavrov: "Let us be frank. The most important thing for the U.S. and Russia is to perceive one another as equal partners. Any other format in our relationship is unacceptable to us. ... It will be very unfortunate if unnecessary haste over issues that can and should be put on the backburner provoked alienation between Russia and the U.S."
Baluyevsky: "If we see that Russia's national interests are under threat, this threat will be minimized. By what means - political, diplomatic, or military - is a technical issue. However, this process will include a military component - the Iskander [missile] or another system. Of course we do not want things to go that far."