Russia, U.S. may agree on European missile shield by 2020

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday that it could take Russia and the United States until 2020 to reach agreement on a European missile shield, but the two sides must create the foundations for a deal now.

“This issue will be solved in the future, maybe in 2020, but we should lay the basis for the work of a future generation of politicians, we should create the right foundation,” Medvedev told journalists after a meeting with after talks with U.S. President Barack Obama in France’s Deauville ahead of a G8 summit.

Obama said U.S.-Russian cooperation in the missile defense sphere should be aimed at maintaining the strategic balance between the countries and correspond to both Russian and U.S. interests.

The Russian-U.S. presidential commission announced on Thursday that it has concluded its work on a report on missile threats.

Russia and NATO agreed to cooperate on the so-called European missile shield during the NATO-Russia Council summit in Lisbon in November 2010. NATO insists there should be two independent systems that exchange information, while Russia favors a joint system.

Russia is opposed to the planned deployment of U.S. missile defense systems near its borders, claiming they would be a security threat. NATO and the United States insist that the shield will defend NATO members against missiles from North Korea and Iran and would not be directed at Russia.

During a news conference with Russian and foreign journalists outside Moscow earlier this month, Medvedev warned that Russia would have to build up its nuclear capability if NATO and the United States failed to reach an agreement with Moscow on European missile defense.

He also reiterated that Russia may pull out of the New START disarmament agreement with the United States, which entered into force this year, in response to Washington’s position on the defense system. 

Russia has expressed concern over the United States’ refusal to provide legally binding guarantees that its plans for a European missile defense system would not be directed against Russia.

During Thursday’s talks, Medvedev and Obama also discussed the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the Iranian nuclear issue.

Medvedev, Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a joint statement on Thursday on the situation in Nagorny Karabakh, calling on the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders to agree on the core issues of the conflict settlement by an upcoming EU-Russia summit in June.

A breakaway region on Azerbaijani territory with a predominantly ethnic Armenian population, Nagorny Karabakh has been a sticking point in the two countries’ relations since the late 1980s, when the region claimed independence from Azerbaijan to join Armenia. The conflict is estimated to have left more than 30,000 people dead on both sides between 1988 and 1994.

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