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U.S. Will Study Russian Missile Defense Proposals

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 7, 2000 – Russian leaders agreeing there is a threat of missile attack from rogue states marks a “significant change in the attitude and understanding” of the U.S. push for a national missile defense, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said.

Cohen, speaking en route to NATO meetings here, said he would discuss Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposals with the NATO allies.

“Just a few weeks ago, [the Russian] officials' position was that there is no threat, or that the threat was largely exaggerated,” Cohen said. “From what I have read, the Russian president now believes there is a threat.” Cohen is due to meet Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev at the NATO meetings and then travel to Moscow for bilateral meetings with his counterpart.

Cohen said Putin’s proposal for an alternative missile defense program is vague. “The devils are always in the details,” he said. He said the Russian idea could be a constructive proposal, “but it could be a tactic to divide the European members of NATO from the United States.”

He said the United States would look at exactly what Putin has proposed before making an assessment.

The United States has proposed a limited National Missile Defense program that would counter threats from rogue states with a small number of ICBMs. It has sought to amend the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty with the former Soviet Union in order to build that defense system. U.S. officials have repeatedly stated the program in no way is aimed at countering Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

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