WASHINGTON — The United States will hold “strategic stability talks” with Russia in the coming months to find mutual areas of cooperation, including a controversial missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.
Ellen Tauscher, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said she is optimistic that the United States, NATO and Russia can find a common ground for the missile defense site.
“We will get a missile defense agreement for cooperation with Russia,” Tauscher said bluntly during a Jan. 12 breakfast with reporters in Washington.
Asked when such an agreement could occur, she said, “Can’t tell you.”
For years, the United States has not been able to get Russia to sign on to its plan to install a European-based missile defense system to intercept Iranian-launched, medium-range ICBMs .
“The Russians are just like everybody else. They don’t like to be invited to a dinner party and arrive during the dessert. Almost everything else that you work with on European security has been settled; settled, decided and worked on together by others for decades,” Tauscher said. “The only thing that’s new where you can actually bring the Russians in is missile defense.”
The U.S. missile shield plan calls for Raytheon SM-3 interceptor sites in Romania and Poland and the installation of a radar site in Turkey.
During the planned talks, Washington and Moscow are expected to discuss a “baker’s dozen” of issues where the countries could work together, including missile defense, cybersecurity and conventional armed forces, Tauscher said.
“We are going to have these strategic stability talks this year so that we can actually come out the other side of it with a greater understanding of what mutually assured stability means to the Russians, what it means to us,” she said.
In order for the missile defense pact to work, the United States must give Russia assurances, Tauscher said.
“I cannot give them assurances that look like limitations; I can’t look like I’m limiting the system,” she said. “I’m not going to limit the system; we’ve made it very clear. We’re going to deploy all four parts of the system, and it’s going to be responsive to the threat.”
Observation of the missile defense system in use is key.
“The only way they’re going to be reassured that SM-3 Block-1A and [Block-]1B and future systems, and the system itself, does not undercut their strategic deterrent is to sit with us in the tent in NATO and see what we’re doing,” Tauscher said. “It will only be their own eyes and ears.
“Is it a political leap of faith? Yes. Are they ready to do it? No. But we’re hoping that these strategic stability talks over the next eight months will start to kind of loosen these old ties that have been binding everybody into the old way of thinking.”