Moscow Ready for Dialogue

Russia is ready for further dialogue with the United States on missile defense cooperation after Moscow received formal proposals from Washington aimed at easing tension over the divisive issue, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said Monday.

While Ivanov accused the United States of aggressive military activity in Europe, his comments signaled more flexibility than the initial Russian reaction to the proposals that the U.S. submitted in writing last week.

He spoke hours before expected discussions on the matter -- a major irritant in Russia-US relations -- between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before Middle East peace talks in the United States.

"We are ready for dialogue, but at the same time we are, of course, guided by our national interests, and if our partner has new military capabilities next to our borders ... we probably have to think about it," Ivanov told Russian News Service radio.

The initial Russian reaction to the formal proposals Washington sent last week was chilly.

A top lawmaker said the proposals fell short of "real cooperation," and news agencies quoted an unidentified Foreign Ministry official as suggesting that the United States had gone back on its word since talks last month between Rice and Lavrov and the two nations' defense chiefs.

Russia has sharply opposed U.S. plans to deploy missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. The United States says the system would counter a potential Iranian threat, but Moscow says it believes that the real aim is to weaken Russia's nuclear deterrent.