Military and political officials from the two countries discussed Tuesday prospects for cooperation on the highly divisive issue with U.S. officials offering their perspective on the Pentagon's plans to deploy a missile defense system in Central Europe.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Rood said Russia had accepted an invitation to view U.S. missile interceptors at a base in Alaska to address Russian concerns over U.S. missile defense plans. It was not clear when the visit might take place.
"I think there is a significantly better understanding on the Russian side about why we are pursuing a missile defense capability," Rood said after the presentation. "We are trying to expand on what President Putin put forward, and to use that as an opportunity to see if we can develop some cooperation."
But Russian representatives reiterated Moscow's position that the U.S. has no reason to build a missile defense system in Europe until there is conclusive evidence showing that Iran has the capability to launch long-range nuclear-armed missiles.
The U.S. has said it wants to place a radar and a host of interceptor missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic to fend off what Washington sees as an impending missile threat from Iran and North Korea. But Russia regards these plans as a threat to its national security.
President Vladimir Putin, during his two-day meeting with President George W. Bush at the Bush family home in Kennebunkport, Maine, last month, proposed incorporating a new radar, currently being built in southern Russia, into a missile defense system managed by the NATO-Russia Joint Permanent Council, of which Moscow and Washington are members.
Russia also said it is ready to upgrade its early warning radar in Gabala, Azerbaijan, which was also proposed as an alternative to U.S. missile plans, but Washington has repeatedly called it obsolete.
Russia's future radar base is located near the town of Armavir, in the Krasnodar Territory - about 700 km (450 miles) to the northwest of the Iranian border, and just 100 km to the north of Sochi, the Russian alpine resort on the Black Sea, whose bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics will be decided tomorrow in Guatemala.