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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Presses Germany on NMD

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Russian generals and diplomats met with the German defense chief Tuesday in a fresh bid to secure EU support for Moscow's opposition to the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev held talks with visiting German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping, where they voiced their concerns about the planned U.S. national missile defense system, or NMD, which would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Scharping expressed skepticism about the new U.S. administration's plans to push ahead with the NMD and said Europe "has a great interest in the preservation and observance" of the ABM treaty, according to Reuters.

He said it was premature to discuss the NMD until there was proof it would be viable. Two of three tests of the system have failed.

"Leonardo da Vinci drew up schemes to allow man to fly … but man learned to fly only 300 years later," Reuters quoted him as saying. "There is no sense in talking now about an idea … whose practical realization we know nothing about."

Ivanov and Sergeyev also reiterated Russia's concern over NATO's possible expansion eastward. But Scharping said, "NATO expansion will not take place in the near future." He hinted, however, that the Baltic republics and other candidate countries "still have the right to join" and Russia would not be able to veto their admission.

One senior official at Russia's Defense Ministry said Scharping's support for preserving the ABM treaty proves that Moscow's efforts to broaden opposition to the NMD plans are paying off.

The general, who asked not to be named, said the ministry remains firmly opposed to U.S. attempts to modify the ABM treaty in order to deploy the NMD to protect North America from missile attacks by so-called rogue states.

Scharping said it was too early to discuss U.S. defense plans.

The general also said that Russia's efforts to build opposition among the United States' European allies have been relatively successful because nations like France and Germany "rightfully fear" that the rogue nations feared by Washington will target them instead of the United States if the latter deploys a ballistic missile umbrella.

The Defense Ministry has proposed building limited defense shields based on Russian research and development, the general said.

He added that the ministry's missile experts will discuss this issue during their visit to the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado, which monitors for possible missile attacks. The Russian delegation left Tuesday, according to Itar-Tass.

Russia has offered Europe and the United States to develop and build such limited shields jointly, but the idea has not been discussed in any detail.

Alexander Pikayev, a defense analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center, said Russia's offer is unlikely to be accepted because Washington will not abandon its plans to deploy a system that it can afford and may need, while other NATO members would not want to antagonize the leader of their bloc.

Pikayev agreed Russia can rely on Europe to support its opposition to the NMD, but noted that Washington has snubbed its NATO allies repeatedly on issues far less important to U.S. national security, such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

China also opposes U.S. NMD plans, and it has been much more outspoken in its criticism than European nations.