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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S., Russia Meet Over Missile Shield

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Coming to ground zero of opposition to U.S. plans for a national missile defense system, a high-level American delegation met Friday with Russian officials to discuss the divisive plan.

A member of the delegation said the fact that the two sides were talking showed progress, but a Foreign Ministry spokesman dismissed the talks as raising more questions than answers, and a top general threatened countermeasures if the United States goes ahead with the system.

Russia vehemently opposes President George W. Bush's intentions to build the missile defense system, which is contrary to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which Russia says is the foundation of global security. The United States argues the system is needed to protect against nuclear attacks by small so-called rogue countries.

The U.S. delegation, led by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, met at the Foreign Ministry with a Russian interagency committee created to shape the Kremlin's response to Bush's intentions.

Stephen Hadley, a deputy U.S. national security adviser, said the delegation "put forward and elaborated on some of the points the president made" and said Friday's meeting was just the first step in a discussion that is expected to take weeks and to involve Bush and President Vladimir Putin personally.

"We began to give them some answers to their questions," Hadley said. The delegation left Moscow later Friday.

But Alexander Yakovenko, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said the talks only underlined Russian concerns.

"The American side has so far failed to produce convincing arguments that would persuade us that it has a clear vision of how to handle international security issues without disrupting the arms control arrangements that have been established over the past 30 years," Yakovenko said.

Colonel General Valery Manilov, first deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, said both sides "must jointly find a way out of the mistaken U.S. decision" and said Russia could take countermeasures if the plan goes ahead.

"Russia possesses the technical, intellectual and technological potential to asymmetrically ensure the interests of its security and the security of its allies in case of the unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from the ABM treaty," he was quoted by Interfax as saying.

The core argument of keeping the ABM treaty, which restricts the United States and Russia each to one tightly localized missile defense system, is that a country will not launch a nuclear strike if it cannot defend itself against retaliation.

Manilov's remarks suggested that Russia's response to a U.S. system would be to increase and upgrade its nuclear arsenal to have the potential to overwhelm the system.

Advocates of the U.S. system argue the ABM Treaty is outdated and that concern about small missile attacks is legitimate. Hadley said for Americans who lived through the Gulf War and saw the effect of Scud missiles, "the threat has a certain reality and urgency that maybe is not shared."

A leading lawmaker said earlier that the Kremlin should be flexible in its response to the Bush proposal.

"We should not, gritting our teeth, oppose the very idea of NMD," said Vladimir Lukin, a deputy speaker of parliament and former Russian ambassador to Washington. "Our stand should be flexible in this case," he told Ekho Moskvy radio.