A live microphone has captured U.S. President Barack Obama telling Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev he will have more room to negotiate on missile defense after the November election.© RIA Novosti. Ekaterina Shtukina
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MOSCOW, November 8 (Marc Bennetts, RIA Novosti) – Russia hopes that US President Barack Obama will demonstrate a greater willingness to compromise on NATO plans for a missile shield in Europe during his second term of office.
“We hope that now, after his reelection, President Obama will be more flexible on taking into account the opinions of Russia and other countries on the configuration of NATO missile defense,” said Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who also oversees Russia’s military-industrial complex.
Rogozin reiterated Russia’s insistence that the US set out its assurances that the missile shield will not be directed against it in legally binding documents, something Washington has refused to agree to.
“As far as public statements that the US missile shield is not against Russia, we do not believe in words alone,” said Rogozin, Russia’s hawkish former NATO envoy. “[Former Soviet leader] Mikhail Gorbachev believed in words, but we do not.”
“We are, you know, the bad guys,” Rogozin joked at a Russian International Affairs Council conference on nuclear weapons and international security.
Gorbachev was reportedly assured by leading US officials that if he agreed to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989, NATO would not expand to Russia’s western borders. Three former Soviet republics, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have joined the military alliance in the years since the reunification of Germany. All three share a common border with Russia.
Rogozin’s comments are likely to be seized on by critics of Obama, who was famously caught on a open mic last year telling then President Dmitry Medvedev to pass on to Vladimir Putin that he would have “more flexibility” after his reelection.
The United States says the disputed missile shield is designed to protect against “rogue states” such as Iran and North Korea, but Russia is concerned it could be used to neutralize its own nuclear deterrent.
Russia has pledged to deploy a host of countermeasures to tackle any NATO missile defense shield in Europe, including forward deployments of tactical nuclear missiles in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.
Under President George W. Bush, Washington planned to deploy major parts of the shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. But Obama scaled these plans down during his first term. They now involve a proposed system of interceptors based on land and at sea around Europe. The United States has also said it wants Russia to become part of the system.
Russia has threatened to launch a host of countermeasures to tackle NATO missile defense, including forward deployments of tactical nuclear missiles in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.
Rogozin also said what he called NATO’s “new tactics of deploying armed forces beyond its zones of responsibility” were a major obstacle to Obama’s stated goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.
“We still have not received the necessary explanation from the United States as to what they think the real reason for the use of military force against Iraq was,” Rogozin said.
“The stated reason was clear – the supposed possession of nuclear weapons by Saddam Hussein,” he added. “But judging by everything, our America colleagues knew for sure that there were no weapons of mass destruction.”
“If they had possessed them, it would be hard to imagine that the Americans would carry out a ground operation to overthrow Saddam Hussein,” he said.
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