World and Nation

Russia Cool to U.S. Request For Cooperation on Missile Defense

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pressed the Kremlin's top leaders on Monday to accept a detailed new plan for cooperation on missile defense in Europe that he said would make Russia a full partner in the American effort by sharing information, jointly developing new technology, and even combining the two countries' defensive radar systems.

The immediate answer from Russia's new defense minister, Anatoly E. Serdyukov, was a firm statement that the Kremlin had not dropped its strong opposition to American proposals for anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.

"The Russian position with respect to this issue remains unchanged," Serdyukov said in brief comments to reporters. "We do believe that deploying all the strategic elements of the ballistic missile defenses is a destabilizing factor that may have a great impact upon global and regional security."

But Gates was just as firmly undeterred as he opened an initiative by the Bush administration over several months to calm Moscow's complaints about placing American missile defenses in former Soviet states.

The United States says the bases are necessary to defend European allies and American forces based in Europe from a potential Iranian attack. Russia fears that the missile defense system is meant to deter its weapons.

During an evening news conference, Gates said he believed that Serdyukov's statement had been written before Monday's meetings. After a full day of talks with a range of senior Kremlin leaders, Gates said he was ending his visit "on a very positive tone."

"We made some real headway in clearing up some misunderstanding about the technical characteristics of the system that are of concern to the Russians," Gates said.

"The key to this is cooperation," he added. "We would like to have the Russians as partners in this process. We would like to share information with them. We are prepared to co- locate radars with them."

A joint missile defense effort offers "some real opportunity here for both sides," Gates said. "And that involves a great deal of transparency on our part — and we are prepared to do that."

In one action growing out of Monday's talks, the two sides agreed to order a group of Russian and American government and military experts to formally address the Kremlin's questions and concerns, Gates said.