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Gates Arrives in Moscow to Meet with Top Russian Leaders

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

MOSCOW, Oct. 11, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived in Moscow tonight to join Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in meetings with top Russian leaders.

Gates left Washington yesterday evening, stopping first in London for several hours to meet with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Secretary of State for Defense Desmond Brown. The U.S. and British leaders primarily addressed ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During his two-day visit to Moscow, Gates is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Defense Minister Anatoliy Eduardovich Serdyukov and other top Russian officials. He also is slated to attend a dinner hosted by First Deputy Premier Sergey Borisovich Ivanov.

Along with discussing ongoing operations in Iraq and developments in Iran, a senior U.S. defense official traveling with the Gates said Gates and the Russian leaders most likely will discuss European missile defense and the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty.

Putin has voiced opposition to the U.S. plans for missile defense and reportedly may suspend his country’s participation in the treaty Dec. 12 if the United States goes forward with its plans.

There is no provision for suspension of the treaty, the senior official told reporters traveling with the secretary. “It’s either full compliance or withdraw. The Russians have defined a term of ‘suspension’ basing it on their legal analysis that if under an international agreement that you can withdraw then there’s a half measure you that can suspend.”

If the Russians decide to suspend CFE, he said, Russia would no longer have to supply information on its number of tanks or other conventional armaments. An inspection regime under the treaty that allows any signatory country to see if another country is honoring its commitment would no longer exist. Russia also would be able to reallocate forces anywhere with in its territory.

“It could move forces into the northern Caucuses, closer to Georgia,” the official said. “It could also move forces into closer to Poland and the Belarus area.”

If Russia was to withdraw from the treaty, he said, the other signatories, the Europeans and the United States could do the same. But the other signatories “will continue to honor the CFE regardless of Russian withdrawal,” the official said.

The United States started laying out plans for a missile defense system for Europe in January. President Bush decided to begin discussions on plans to field radar and interceptors in Eastern Europe that would extend the zone of coverage for the potential long-range missile threat from Iran or others in the region. NATO’s missile defense program covers most of Europe for short- and medium-range systems.

“The two locations we chose -- the Czech Republic and Poland -- are based on some pretty lengthy studies, and those are the most optimal places for the positioning of interceptors and the radar in order to be able to get as much coverage of Europe as possible,” the senior defense official said.

In April, Gates traveled to the Czech Republic and Poland to discuss the plans. Officials in both nations have made it clear they are integral parts of the current plan, the official said.

Gates also discussed the plans with Putin in April, and U.S. officials presented suggestions on how the U.S. and Russia could cooperate on missile defense. Since then, U.S. and Russian experts have met in Washington, Paris and Moscow to discuss details of the plans, the official said.

“The Russians still have not formally responded to the proposals we put on the table in April about different opportunities for joint data exchange, technology sharing, joint experimentation,” he said.

U.S. officials also have offered to provide data from radar equipment in Greenland, Poland or the Czech Republic, the official said. U.S. officials also are open to sharing early-warning information and threat analysis. “We’re open to any possibility,” he noted.

“The Russians have made it clear that any data that would be shared from their end would come from either Azerbaijan or new radar they are establishing,” he said. “The radar feed could not be linked into our system. It would be early-warning radar that would be linked into a joint data center, but not part of our missile defense system.”

A proposal to establish a joint data exchange center also has been on the table for 10 years, the official said. Each country would be able to share data so that if there were an accidental launch by any of the countries with ballistic missiles, they’d be able to track it and they’d be able to determine if it were an accidental launch or an attack.

“U.S. officials are open to a variety of different ways to use the data,” the official said. “The Russians have made it clear that as long as we continue with the Czech Republic and Poland, integration from their system is not an option.”

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