Russia hopes to put limits on U.S. missile defense program

Monday, January 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia hopes to negotiate agreements that would put limits on the U.S. missile defense program, a senior general said in an interview released Monday.

The statement by Col. Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky is the first official indication that Russia is trying to get restrictions on the U.S. missile shield, although Washington has shown no willingness to bend.

``In our opinion, these agreements must put certain restrictions on the missile defense system the United States intends to build,'' said Baluyevsky, the first deputy chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, who led the Russian delegation to arms talks in Washington last week. The comments were made in an interview with the Interfax-Military News Agency released Monday.

There was no immediate comment from Washington. But U.S. officials have said repeatedly they would go ahead with the system despite Russian objections.

Analysts said Russia is unlikely to win any concessions.

The U.S. government ``wants to have free hands on missile defense and is unlikely to accept any technical restrictions,'' said Ivan Safranchuk, who heads the Moscow office of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information.

He said Russia missed the chance to negotiate some restrictions on the U.S. missile defense plan by blindly opposing any changes in the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

The United States decided last month to withdraw from the treaty, which bans a defense system of the kind the administration wants to build against potential threats from such nations as North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

``Russia has no bargaining chips and can only plea that the United States limits its missile shield,'' the analyst said.

While scrapping the ABM, President Bush has pledged to reduce U.S. nuclear arsenals by about two-thirds, to 1,700 to 2,200. Putin has said that Russia could go as low as 1,500 warheads.

Baluyevsky said Russia hopes new arms control agreements can be reached by the time Bush visits in May or June despite differences that emerged during the consultations.

On Monday, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov met with visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf to discuss ways to strengthen control over nonproliferation of mass-destruction weapons.

Mamedov said the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty and its refusal to ratify a global nuclear test ban were undermining the international nonproliferation regime, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The statement said Wolf reaffirmed U.S. concern about Russia's nuclear and military cooperation with Iran, while Mamedov responded by saying such contacts were in ``strict conformity with international obligations.''

In an apparent reference to U.S. sanctions imposed several years ago against several Russian companies accused of smuggling sensitive technologies to Tehran, Mamedov said that ``unfounded'' sanctions must be lifted.