Missile Defense System Could Include NATO, Russia’s Putin Says

By Vince Crawley
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - President Bush, meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Kennebunkport, Maine, welcomed the Russian president’s proposal to expand a shared missile defense network to include Russia, the United States and European allies via the NATO-Russia Council.

The Russian and U.S. presidents met July 1-2 in at the Bush family’s summer home in Kennebunkport.

Putin’s proposal for a combined NATO-Russian-U.S. missile defense system is “a very constructive and bold, strategic move,” Bush told reporters in a joint news conference July 2.

Putin also proposed information-sharing centers in Moscow and Brussels, Belgium, to coordinate missile defenses. He repeated Russia’s interest in allowing the use of a leased radar facility in Azerbaijan and said a radar site in southern Russia also might contribute to missile defenses.

Russia has opposed ongoing U.S. negotiations with the Czech Republic and Poland to station missile interceptors and a radar system in those two countries to protect the United States and Europe from intercontinental warheads launched from the Middle East. At the Group of Eight (G8) Summit in Germany in June, Putin proposed using the Azerbaijan radar site instead of building the new Czech and Poland facilities. (See related article.)

Putin emphasized July 2 his desire for Russia to cooperate with the United States in a regional missile defense plan. He also suggested that European nations also should participate.

“We do believe that the number of parties to this consultation could be expanded through the European countries who are interested in resolving the issue,” Putin told reporters. “And the idea is to achieve this through the forum of the NATO-Russia Council.”

The NATO-Russia Council allows Russia an equal seat at the NATO table to discuss cooperation in mutual defense matters such as anti-terrorism, missile defense and nuclear weapons nonproliferation. Information-exchange centers in Moscow and Brussels could be part of “a single system that would work on line” to monitor and defend the entire region against rogue missiles, Putin said.

A widespread regional system, Putin said, would make it unnecessary to build a Czech radar site or an interceptor site in Poland. At the same time, he said, “such cooperation, I believe, would result in raising to an entirely new level the quality of cooperation between Russia and the United States. And for all practical purposes, this would lead to a gradual development of strategic partnership in the area of security.”

Putin’s missile defense vision is “sincere,” “innovative” and “strategic,” Bush said, adding, “But, as I told Vladimir, I think that the Czech Republic and Poland need to be an integral part of the system.”

National Security Advisor Steve Hadley told reporters in Kennebunkport that Putin’s offer for European cooperation represents “real progress on this issue.” After the G8 meeting in June, Hadley said, international observers were unclear whether Putin was serious about his offer to cooperate with the United States on missile defense. “And I think he answered that question very strongly in the affirmative today,” Hadley said of Putin.

A transcript of remarks to reporters by Bush and Putin is available on the White House Web site, as is a transcript of Hadley’s remarks.

For more information on U.S. policies, see Russia.