Clinton wants 'serious' talks with Russia on shield
Brussels, March 5, 2009
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she wanted to put on a "serious track" talks with Russia on a missile defence shield to counter nuclear threats from Iran.
"We want to have a more robust and meaningful dialogue with Russia going forward on a range of issues," Clinton told reporters travelling with her to Brussels for meetings with Nato foreign ministers, which will also cover Russia.
"Let's put it on a serious track," said Clinton of talks with Russia on a missile defence system that Moscow opposes.
Clinton is set to have her first substantial meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday when missile defence and strategic arms control are expected to be key topics.
Last month US officials said the United States had offered to slow deployment of a missile shield in Europe in exchange for Moscow's help in curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions.
President Barack Obama, who has been lukewarm on missile defence, denied on Tuesday that he had cut a deal with Moscow and Clinton's comments indicated that Washington had not given up on the idea.
"Just as we had to build a mutual defence with Europe in the 20th century, we have to build it in the 21st century. It is my hope that we will persuade Russia to be part of that defence," she said.
The plan to site missiles and a radar tracking station in former Communist satellite states Poland and the Czech Republic has angered Moscow, which sees it as a threat, despite U.S.
insistence that it is aimed at rogue missiles from Iran.
Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev said this week that Moscow was willing to talk to Washington about the shield but that it saw Iran's nuclear program as a separate issue.
Clinton's reiterated the US view that a missile shield was not aimed at Russia but at deterring Iran and that the two powers should work together.
"Iran poses a threat to Europe and Russia we think this is a very rich area for exploration and this is what we are going to do," she said.
Russia will also be high on the agenda of Clinton's talks at Nato headquarters in Brussels. The military alliance is debating whether to strengthen ties strained by Moscow's brief incursion into Georgia last summer.
"There is an interest in exploring with Russia what kind of cooperation is possible both with Nato, and with the United States on a range of issues," she said.
"I think in some areas we will find there is great potential for cooperation. In others we are going to have differences. We will stand our ground and they will stand theirs and we will hope to have some cooperation, if possible."
Asked whether she thought cooperation with the military alliance should be via the Nato-Russia Council, Clinton said that was one vehicle but that there might be other ways of improving relations too.
She hailed the "courage and leadership" of both the Czech Republic and Poland in agreeing to have a missile defence system deployed on their soil.
"They recognize that there is a real potential future threat. They did not hide their heads in the sand. They said you know what, we see it as you see it."
She said the United States would also be looking at potential "mutual defence" pacts in other parts of the world.
"I hope that all of our allies and partners around the world begin to think with us about what 21st century deterrence looks like," she said. - Reuters