The United States could offer to protect Russia from emerging missile threats in an effort to ease Moscow’s anger over Pentagon plans to place missile defense systems in the former Soviet bloc, a senior U.S. defense official said Tuesday.
Eric Edelman, the Pentagon’s under secretary of defense for policy, said the United States and Russia would start talks on ways to cooperate in missile defense.
One option is to share data retrieved by sensors that Washington wants to place in central Europe, Edelman said. Edelman said the United States also could offer to use its missile defenses to protect parts of Russia that Moscow’s missile defenses do not cover.
“If we can help them defend themselves against this same threat, I think we’re happy to do that,” he told reporters at the Pentagon.
The Pentagon wants to place a radar system in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland to shoot down long-range missiles that the United States believes Iran will be able to launch by 2015.
That plan has generated fierce criticism in Russia. Moscow sees the system as an encroachment on its sphere of influence, and some Russian officials have said the U.S. system would target Russia, something the Pentagon denies.
France and Germany have expressed concerns too, with some officials saying it could lead to a new arms race.
Edelman said cooperation on defenses could alleviate worries about a race to build and acquire ever more capable offensive missile assets.
“We want to cooperate with Russia. We think there is a benefit to cooperating with Russia. We think the threat is one that they face as well as one that we face,” he told reporters after meeting with European officials last week to talk about the missile defense plans.
The United States has offered to share missile defense technologies with Russia in the past. Edelman, however, said Moscow might be more likely to accept offers now because it too faces a threat from emerging missile capabilities of Iran and North Korea.
Regardless of Russia’s decision on cooperation, Washington will move forward, Edelman said.
“I don’t think if for some reason we’re unable to reach a commonly agreed way ahead that we would want to accede to Russia being able to dictate what we do bilaterally with other countries or what NATO does as an alliance.”