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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Progress in Missile Defense Talks

ReutersGeneral Yury Baluyevsky, left, holding talks with the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, in Brussels on Friday.
BRUSSELS -- Talks between NATO leaders and General Yury Baluyevsky late last week failed to narrow the gap between Moscow and the West over a missile defense shield in Central Europe.

But the Czech foreign minister said Friday that the Russians were signaling a readiness to negotiate about the shield.

After NATO talks Thursday, Baluyevsky, chief of the General Staff, repeated Russia's opposition to the shield and dismissed U.S. assertions that it was needed to defend against potential threats from Iran.

He told reporters that Iran was decades away from producing missiles that could target Europe and said the U.S. plans posed a threat to Russia.

Iran "cannot be the reason for the deployment of the U.S. strategic elements," Baluyevsky said. "What is being created is exactly what we moved away from 15 years ago with the end of the Cold War."

U.S. officials have said the plan to install 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic poses no threat to Russia's strategic weapons. Baluyevsky said, however, that Russia could not be sure the U.S. deployment would remain on that scale.

"Today 10, tomorrow 20? Who can give us the guarantees?" he asked. "Nobody tells us how many interceptors there will be in 2020, or 2030."

In Berlin, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said Friday that the Czechs were noticing a change in tone over the missile shield.

"They're sending signals 'negotiate with us,' and we are naturally ready to negotiate," Schwarzenberg said after a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Schwarzenberg was asked whether Russia was now becoming "reasonable" about the issue. "I would not talk about being reasonable," he said. "There are Russian interests, and they are trying to figure out what's the best way to satisfy Russian interests. It's always a question of whether there will eventually be a compromise."

Baluyevsky on Thursday also warned that the revised Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe was "on the verge of collapse." He blamed NATO nations for the crisis.

Baluyevsky ended his Brussels visit on Friday with talks with the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. AP, Reuters