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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Missile Defense to Top Agenda

The United States will seek to dispel Russian anger and European skepticism about a planned missile-defense system during NATO-hosted talks in Brussels on Thursday.

The meeting of senior officials from NATO and Russia is part of a U.S. campaign to rein in a dispute that some have compared to a mini-Cold War, and which has exposed divergences among NATO allies on security threats.

"We have been hopelessly behind the curve in explaining this. That has allowed others to hijack the issue," a senior U.S. official conceded.

President Vladimir Putin, who some analysts say is using the spat to divide the West, has said Washington's plan to deploy 10 interceptor rockets in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic by 2012 is an encroachment on its former sphere of influence. He has warned it could revive the arms race.

U.S. protestations that the shield represents no such threat and is designed to shoot down missiles fired at the United States and its allies by rogue states have been drowned out amid a nervy debate across Europe.

Lieutenant-General Henry Obering, head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, will also attend to tell the meeting that the shield would protect most of Europe and could be expanded at relatively little cost to cover the entire continent and even Russia.

Obering, touring Europe to convince skeptics of the merits of the plan, said Tuesday in Warsaw that Washington was ready to allow Russian experts to inspect the site, likely to be placed in Poland, to show that it poses no threat to Moscow.

The talks in Brussels are classified as a "reinforced meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at ambassadorial level," NATO's web site said.

A NATO spokesman said Wednesday "the level of representation will be at political directors and experts." The United States will be represented by Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, in addition to Obering.

Russia's NATO envoy, Konstantin Totsky, will attend along with mid-level officials from the Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported Wednesday.

Reuters, MT