Russia’s Defense Ministry expressed hope on Thursday that upcoming US-Russian talks at a ministerial level would have a “constructive nature” despite several issues that hinder progress in bilateral ties.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are scheduled to take part in “2+2 format” consultations with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and State Secretary John Kerry on Friday in Washington.
The talks, expected to focus on a number of sticking points in bilateral ties, including missile defense, come against a backdrop of growing tensions between the two countries over Edward Snowden, the US former intelligence contractor who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia despite repeated calls from Washington to send him back to the United States to stand trial on charges of espionage and theft.
“Despite the new developments in US-Russian relations, we expect the consultations to be constructive and allow us to prepare the next steps in the strengthening of strategic stability,” Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told reporters.
Russia and NATO had initially agreed at a Lisbon summit in November 2010 to cooperate with a US-proposed missile defense system in Eastern Europe. But further talks between Russia and the alliance have floundered over NATO’s refusal to grant Russia legal guarantees that the system would not be aimed at Russian nuclear deterrence forces.
NATO and the United States insist that the so-called European missile shield would be designed to defend NATO member states against missiles from emerging-threat nations like North Korea and Iran, and would not be directed at Russia. The alliance has vowed to continue developing and deploying its missile defenses, regardless of the status of missile defense cooperation with Russia.
In mid-March, the United States announced that it was modifying its planned missile defense deployment in Poland, dropping plans to station SM-3 IIB interceptor missiles in the country by 2022.
Russian officials responded by saying that this did nothing to allay their concerns over US missile defense in Eastern Europe, and reiterated their demand for legally binding agreements guaranteeing that Russia’s strategic nuclear forces would not be targeted.