WASHINGTON — The deployment of U.S. missile defenses in eastern Europe is in the US interest and not a move against Russia, a senior foreign policy adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Thursday.
"I do not think Russia has a legitimate security concern here," Richard Danzig, a former Navy secretary in the Clinton administration, told defense reporters here.
Danzig's remarks to defense reporters here was a strong sign that a Democratic administration would continue to back the European missile defense system despite tensions with Moscow and misgivings among some Democratic lawmakers.
He called for "serious conversations" with the Russians on U.S. plans to deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a powerful radar in the Czech Republic.
But he said the system "is not anti-Russian, either in the number of interceptors that would be placed in Poland or the radar system in Czechoslovakia, or in their angle of approach or basic geometries."
"This is not an anti-Russian move," he said.
The United States has signed agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic on basing the missile defenses on their territory by 2012 to counter what Washington sees as a growing Iranian ballistic missile threat. They have to be ratified by the Polish and Czech parliaments.
Moscow angrily opposes the deployment in its former sphere of influence, and senior Russian military officials have warned that Russia might target the sites with missiles.
But Danzig said "the presence of those agreements is in the United States's interests and can be reconciled with Russian interests."
He praised an effort by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to engage the Russians in a strategic dialogue, which included ways they might cooperate on missile defense.
"That's gotten off track with Georgia," Danzig added, referring to the Russian invasion of Georgia in early August.
More broadly on dealing with Russia, Danzig echoed the current administration's position that Moscow was isolating itself with its aggressive actions, and that would have consequences.
"Obama's view is it is very important for Russia to recognize those consequences, to recognize what it is doing, to make clear to Russia that if it continues on that path other consquences will follow," he said.
"On the other hand it is valuable to induce them away from that path," he added.
Copyright 2008 AFP