Russia said Monday it saw “no concession” in the US decision to abandon the final phase of its missile shield for Europe in favour of deploying new interceptors against a possible attack from North Korea.
The US move was seen in Washington as raising prospects for a revival of arms control talks with Russia.
But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Kommersant business daily: “This is not a concession to Russia and we do not see it as such. Our objections remain.”
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday that 14 more interceptors would be stationed in Alaska — increasing by almost half the 30 already deployed along the western coastline. The aim is to have them in place by 2017.
Pyongyang has threatened to unleash a second Korean War in response to UN sanctions imposed after its third atomic test in February and joint South Korea-US military manoeuvres.
The US decision means it will not go through with the fourth phase of its missile defence deployments in Europe under which interceptors focused on Iran were due to have been placed in Poland.
Hagel said the decision was part of an overall restructuring of how Washington viewed international threats.
Russia has long argued that the European missile shield was aimed against its own nuclear deterrent and has held up negotiations on other disarmament agreements as a result.
It has also expressed worries that Washington was building a global missile defence programme that fell outside the limits of existing strategic treaties.
Ryabkov stressed that Russia believed that the extra US interceptors in Alaska “significantly expand US capabilities in the area of missile defence.”
“We are not experiencing any euphoria about this,” he added.
Kommersant said that Ryabkov was due to meet Tuesday in Geneva with US Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller Gottemoeller to discuss the issue further.
US officials said Washington had officially informed both Poland and Romania about the move before Hagel made the announcement on Friday.
Both countries have thus far issued muted responses despite their apparent disappointment with the change in US plans.
But reports said that Moscow had not been informed in advance and had learnt of the missile defence shift from the media.
Analysts said Russia would have preferred the same result from a negotiated agreement from which the Kremlin could emerge as the winner.
“The Americans were planning their actions irrespective of what Moscow intended to do or say,” said Viktor Kremenyuk of the USA-Canada Institute.
“This is not being done for Moscow’s sake,” he told the ITAR-TASS news agency.
Some analysts had hoped that the US announcement would ease the way to further reductions in the two sides’ stockpiles of short and intermediate range nuclear weapons.
Russia — which has more short-range missiles than the US — had opposed such talks until Washington dropped its European missile shield.
But Ryabkov’s comments suggested that Moscow was not yet ready to open further negotiations.
“Right now, we are still holding on to our positions,” PIR nuclear research centre analyst Yevgeny Buzhinsky said.
“The Obama administration has said lots of different things about missile defence. We want to see what their position actually is now.”
Obama had promised Putin some future concessions in a famous 2012 conversation with then-president Dmitry Medvedev that was captured on an open microphone.
Yet few in Moscow read Hagel’s announcement as a signal from Obama to Moscow that Washington was in a conciliatory mood and ready for more talks.
“This is simply a small correction of existing plans to build a global defence system,” National Defence magazine editor Igor Korotchenko told the RIA Novosti news agency.
“The United States’ strategic goals remain the same.”