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Russia Wants ‘Red Button’ Rights on U.S. Missile-Defense System

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov. Photographer: Dmitry Beliakov/Bloomberg

Russia wants to join in the planned U.S. missile shield in Europe with “red-button” rights to launch strikes at incoming weapons, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said.

Russia, which is pursuing talks on the issue with the U.S., will only accept an agreement that allows it to have a joint role in operating the defense system, Ivanov said in an interview yesterday in Miami, two days after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington.

“We insist on only one thing: that we’re an equal part of it,” said Ivanov, a former KGB colleague of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and defense minister until 2007. “In practical terms, that means our office will sit, for example, in Brussels and agrees on a red-button push to start an anti-missile, regardless of whether it starts from Poland, Russia or the U.K.”

Russian leaders complain that the shield, which the U.S. says is needed to guard against so-called rogue states such as Iran, will blunt their country’s nuclear capability. They have warned of a new arms race within the next decade unless they can cooperate with the U.S. and its allies on missile defense.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered during a visit to Moscow last month to share missile-launch information and to set up a joint data center in a bid to soften Russian opposition to the system of radar stations and interceptors that can shoot down rockets. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said last week that the proposal fell short of Russia’s expectations.

‘Anti-Russian Potential’

“This proposal doesn’t change the fact that a missile-defense system with a significant anti-Russian potential will appear on Russia’s borders,” Antonov said in an e-mailed response to questions on April 1. “This will destroy decades of strategic parity and that’s why ideas about cooperation and building trust may well end up only on paper.”

President Barack Obama’s administration has made a priority of mending relations with Russia after they sank to a post-Cold War low following the ex-Soviet power’s war with Georgia in August 2008.

Gates was the latest high-level Obama administration official to visit Russia in recent weeks for talks on missile defense, which the U.S. insists isn’t intended to weaken Russia’s offensive capabilities.

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