Moscow hopes Russian-U.S. arms deal on track
MOSCOW, June 30 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow hopes progress will be made during the U.S. president's visit on July 6-8 both on missile defense and strategic arms cuts, the Russian foreign minister has said.
In an article entitled, Russian-U.S. Relations: Reaching New Heights, published on Tuesday, Sergei Lavrov said both parties "have dragged their feet too long" on strategic arms reduction and missile defense, and now it is time "to make up lost ground."
"Real progress in this area will give hope of an advance towards the ultimate goal - a nuclear-free world," he said.
The minister added that over the past few months Russian-U.S. links had acquired a new dynamic, while relations between the two countries "have entered a period of change."
He said Barack Obama's visit to Russia "is destined to become a landmark in this process."
The chief of the Russian military's General Staff said on Friday a Russian-U.S. military cooperation agreement would be signed during Obama's visit.
Army Gen. Nikolai Makarov said a draft had been finalized with Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who made a three-day visit to Russia.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said that any strategic arms cuts will only be possible if the United States eased Russia's concerns over Washington's plans for a missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland.
The U.S. military recently reiterated its commitment to missile defense, citing a growing threat from North Korea and Iran, but suggested plans for a European site may change.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested that Russian facilities could be part of the missile defense system, but Moscow has rejected this idea, saying there could be no partnership "in building facilities that are essentially designed to counter Russia's strategic deterrence forces."
Meanwhile, Russia and the U.S. are involved in talks on a new strategic arms reduction deal to replace the START I treaty, which expires in December.
Moscow, which proposed a new arms reduction agreement in 2005, expects Washington to agree on a deal that would restrict not only the numbers of nuclear warheads, but also place limits on all existing kinds of delivery vehicles.
However, Russia has insisted that the deployment of a planned U.S. missile defense system in Europe would greatly impede progress on strategic arms reductions.