Russia and NATO have serious disagreements over plans for a US missile defense system in Eastern Europe, but there still may be time to negotiate the issue, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told reporters on Thursday.
The Russian diplomat, however, was not overly optimistic.
"Unfortunately, there is no tangible progress at the moment,” he admitted. “What is more, NATO has declared the primary readiness of the missile defense system.”
Russia must deal with the fait accompli, Grushko added.
Nevertheless, he indicated that there was still “a window of opportunity for negotiations. We will try to agree on this key problem eventually."
If some sort of an agreement is not reached, however, “the project could change the very essence of Russia-NATO relations," he said.
Missile defense will top the agenda in an upcoming meeting between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The diplomats are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next week, Grushko confirmed.
At least one Russian analyst believes the Americans and Europeans will come around to the conclusion that Russia should be included in the project.
“First, it’s foolish to attempt to create a global anti-missile defense system without Russia,” said Sergey Markov, political analyst and member of the Public Chamber. “It’s just as foolish as toppling Hosni Mubarak in Egypt or deposing Gaddafi with the use of radical Muslim extremists, who then started killing diplomats.”
“There is some hope that Americans will abandon this foolishness,” the analyst continued. “Of course, I don’t mean abandoning the plans for missile defense altogether; I mean creating this system without Russia and against Russia.”
Markov also alluded to the immense price tag for such a system, which may prove exorbitant in these days of economic crisis.
“In view of the looming world economic crisis the burden of such a project should be divided between a number of states,” he said. “So I think at the end of the day the Americans will agree to making this system together with Russia.