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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow: We Won't Scrap ABM

Moscow will not back down from its opposition to a U.S. plan for a missile defense shield if Washington should offer to include Russian-built hardware in the construction of the shield, two ministers said Monday.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov both snubbed a report in The New York Times on Monday that said U.S. President George W. Bush's administration hopes to secure Russia's support for the defense shield by offering to buy medium-range S-300 missile systems for the European portion of the shield. The United States also intends to offer financing for Russia's cash-strapped early warning radar system, the Times said.

Defense Minister Ivanov said Russia has received no such offers from the United States.

"So far we have received no official offer about the possibility of buying the S-300," Ivanov said at a news conference.

He said Moscow would consider any order from Washington for the system as a pure business proposition and would not tie a sale to a softening of its stance against the missile shield.

The U.S. proposal, if fulfilled, would scrap the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by the Americans and the Soviets in 1972. Russia has repeatedly insisted that the ABM Treaty, which bars both Moscow and Washington from deploying a national missile shield, be honored.

Defense Minister Ivanov said talking about the S-300 and the ABM pact was like talking about apples and oranges.

"The S-300 is intended for air defense, not anti-missile defense, so I can't link this to the current disagreement on ABM," Ivanov said.

Ivanov's remarks contrast with the technical specifications of the latest version of the S-300, the S-300 PMU2. The catalog for arms exporter Rosoboronexport describes the S-300 PMU2 as a system capable of "the efficient destruction of ballistic missile warheads" with an engagement range for targets of up to 40 kilometers.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov echoed the defense minister, saying Washington has not offered to buy the S-300. He also said U.S plans to deploy a national missile defense shield and the possible purchase of the S-300 "should not be linked to each other by any means."

Former Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, who advises President Vladimir Putin on security matters, said the report about the proposal was not surprising. "It has been expected, not Washington's possible intentions to buy the S-300 but the creation of a situation which, in Washington's opinion, would push Russia to reconcile about the national missile defense," Sergeyev was quoted by Interfax as saying.

The Kremlin refuses to hold official negotiations over national missile defense, and Defense Minister Ivanov was careful Monday to describe several past rounds of talks between Russian and U.S. officials as "consultations."

While refusing to officially discuss changing the ABM Treaty to allow the defense shield, the government is considering its options for a compromise, said Ivan Safranchuk, strategic arms expert with the Center for Policy Studies.

One such option could see Moscow agreeing to the shield in exchange for reducing U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals to 1,500 each, a move that would ease the burden on the country to maintain the arsenals, Safranchuk said.

This option could also include cooperation between Western Europe and Russia on developing and deploying a ballistic missile defense based on a more advanced S-400 air defense system. Then-Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev offered the S-400, which is currently undergoing testing, to Europe last year.

Another option could be to continue opposing the shield until Washington officially abrogates the ABM Treaty by deploying the defense system, Safranchuk said. The abrogation of the ABM Treaty would allow Russia to walk out of key strategic arms reduction treaties such as START I and START II and develop its strategic nuclear triad as it sees fit.

Safranchuk predicted that Russian and U.S. diplomats will not reach a compromise by the time Putin and Bush meet for the first time in Slovenia on June 16. The New York Times said Bush plans to present the S-300 proposal at that time.