An international conference on missile defense kicked off in Moscow on Thursday. Initiated by the Russian Defense Ministry, the conference is attended by more than 200 representatives of military bodies as well as military professionals and experts from 50 countries.
High on the agenda were the US’ and NATO’s plans to create a global missile defense system and deploy elements of the US missile shield in Europe. Thursday’s discussions specifically focused on the European missile defense system which Russian experts say may well pose a risk to Russia’s strategic forces. At the same time, the US delegation admitted that the European missile shield will be unable to intercept Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missiles. Moscow, on its part, confirmed its unwillingness to send the Russian delegation to the forthcoming NATO summit due to be held in Chicago.
During the conference, Moscow reiterated its readiness to launch an ‘information offensive’ after the talks on the creation of a joint sectoral missile defense system in Europe had virtually collapsed.
During the conference, Russian military experts presented a 3-D model which showed how the existing and planned elements of the US missile shield based in Turkey, Romania and Poland could intercept Russia’s ICBMs.
This is something that could undermine the strategic balance between the offensive and defensive weapons held by Russia and the United States, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
Valery Gerasimov, deputy head of the Russian General Staff, said, in turn, that the European missile shield would be unable to protect Europe from a possible missile strike by Iran.
"Elements of the US missile shield deployed in Romania are unlikely to be able to protect Southern Europe from any missiles launched from the South, Gerasimov says. As for the shield based in Poland, they could undermine Russia’s nuclear deterrent, but would be unable to protect Europe from any potential missiles coming from the South."
NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow has, meanwhile, reiterated the alliance’s willingness to develop strategic partnership with Russia. He also said that the European missile defense system does not have the capability to neutralize Russia’s nuclear deterrence.
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On Thursday, participants expressed hope that Russia and the West will finally be able to agree on the missile defense issue. It seems, however, that neither Moscow nor Washington believes in a speedy breakthrough on the matter, analysts say. In an interview with the Voice of Russia broadcast on Thursday, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov stated in no uncertain terms Moscow's decision to stay away from the Chicago summit.