The U.S. Department of State said it was ready to intensify its efforts to find a mutually acceptable European missile shield solution hours after Russia threatened military countermeasures.
The alliance says the shield will come into full operation by around 2020 and is to protect against “rogue” states such as Iran. But Russia insists the system is a threat to its national security and is seeking written guarantees from NATO that it will not be used against its interests.
“I think we’re just going to redouble our efforts to seek common ground on this and to seek understanding,” Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said.
“This cooperation on missile defense has been something that we’ve been engaged on and committed to for a number of years, so we’re going to continue those efforts.”
Nikolai Makarov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian military, said on Thursday Russia needs binding legal guarantees that the missile shield will not harm the strategic nuclear parity it has with the United States, and reserves the right to retaliate if its concerns are not addressed.
He added that Russia does not even rule out delivering preemptive strikes against missile defense objects in Poland and Romania and shooting down U.S. satellites utilized as part of the shield.
Toner said his country has “made clear for many years now that there’s no intent, desire, or capability to undermine Russian strategic deterrent.”
The U.S. diplomat expressed hope that the two countries will eventually be able to resolve those missile defense differences, but refused to name any specific timeframe.
“I don’t have a date certain on that. I think we’re just going to continue the hard work on it,” he said.
NATO is to declare initial operational readiness of the system at an alliance summit in Chicago on May 20, an indication that it is willing to go ahead with its plans without Russian accord, he added.