WASHINGTON — The United States has given Russia fresh proposals to try to ease its concerns over US missile shield plans and hopes the row can still be resolved, US negotiator John Rood said Thursday.
The United States has also submitted to Russia its proposal for a "legally binding treaty" to replace the Cold War-era Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) when it expires in December 2009, Rood said.
He said the offer on the missile shield was sent "earlier this week," before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced plans to deploy missiles in response to the proposed US anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Medvedev's remarks on Wednesday amounted to a warning shot to US president-elect Barack Obama and Washington's allies in central Europe.
Rood, the US under secretary for arms control and international security, said the proposals submitted to Russia built on previous ones that would allow Russian authorities access to the missile shield sites.
"We've elaborated on our previous proposals," Rood told reporters without going into detail.
Rood planned to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Ryabkov in the coming weeks, probably in Moscow, to discuss the proposals as well as other issues, including cooperation on avoiding nuclear terrorism.
Rood said he was still optimistic about a solution despite Medvedev's threat to deploy missiles in a part of western Russia wedged between Lithuania and Poland — which he called "disappointing" and "unwelcome."
"The United States remains interested in working with the Russians to find a framework that we can agree on to reduce the level of concern the Russians have held," Rood said.
"We continue to work on achieving that outcome," he said. "I remain hopeful that we can find a resolution."
The United States has long argued that the US missile shield plans are not aimed at Russia but preventing a rogue state like Iran from firing long-range missiles.
Rood said the US proposal on START focused on limiting nuclear warheads, even though Russia wanted to open up the negotiations to limits on conventional forces and missile defense.
"We think a treaty on nuclear forces is appropriate," Rood said, adding that the Russians have long called for including missile defense in the talks.
"That's not new that wrinkle," he said.
The proposals were sent around two weeks ago, and will be discussed further before the end of the year, he said.
Copyright 2008 AFP