Russia's military chief
by San Diego Union Tribune
Russia's military chief on Wednesday called Washington's offer of cooperation on missile defense a smoke screen for the U.S. to proceed with its plan to deploy elements of a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, the military chief of staff, said the U.S. proposal boiled down to making Russia a “cost-free addition” to its program.
Advertisement “A dog barks, but a caravan goes on,” Baluyevsky said, using a common proverb, according to Russian news agencies. “In their opinion, it's us who bark and they get on with their business. We don't accept that role.”
Baluyevsky's comments followed Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's sharp criticism of U.S. proposals for missile defense cooperation after talks in Washington earlier this week.
The U.S. wants to place a radar station in the Czech Republic and a battery of 10 intercepter missiles in Poland, and says the components would be aimed at defending European allies from a possible Iranian strike.
President Vladimir Putin has dismissed U.S. assurances that the shield is not aimed at Russia, saying the program would erode Russia's nuclear deterrent.
U.S. officials said last week they submitted a formal proposal to Russia that included incentives which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates made during an October trip to Moscow. Those included allowing Russian experts to make regular inspections of the U.S. site in Poland, subject to Warsaw's approval, and delaying the activation of the U.S. interceptors until it is clear that Iranian ballistic missiles could reach Europe.
Lavrov said, however, that the written proposal represented a “significant rollback” from October's offer.
“If the informal proposals in Moscow were a mere improvisation, then this improvisation failed,” Lavrov said on a flight back to Moscow, the agencies reported. “What we have received on paper is disappointing, but we do not rule out further dialogue with the Americans.”
The discord over missile defense and other disputes has plunged U.S.-Russian relations to their lowest point since the Cold War.
Earlier this year, Putin offered an alternative proposal involving joint use of a Russian-operated radar station in Azerbaijan, and called on Washington to shelve its plans for eastern Europe pending discussions on cooperation. Washington welcomed Putin's offer, but said it could not replace the sites in Eastern Europe.
Putin suspended Russia's obligations under a key arms control treaty, and warned that Moscow could retaliate by targeting the planned U.S. sites with its missiles. He repeatedly boasted of Russian capability to penetrate any prospective missile defenses.
Russian news reports said, however, that the Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile, which is being developed to arm the nation's nuclear submarines, failed again during a test launch earlier this month – the latest in a string of failures that has cast doubts on the program.