- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

HELSINKI (AP) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Monday that U.S. plans for a missile shield in Europe threaten to disrupt the weapons balance between the two countries.

During a visit to Finland, Medvedev noted that Moscow “could not reach agreement with the previous U.S. administration” on missile defense, but said he expected to begin talks on the issue soon with President Barack Obama.

When they met in London earlier this month, the two presidents did not address American preparations to deploy parts of a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, but in their joint statement the United States acknowledged Russian concerns.

“Russia is very concerned about unilateral efforts to develop missile shields that decidedly pose complications in the mutual balance of weapons,” Medvedev said at the University of Helsinki.

He said that “a truly global missile shield” should not serve the interests of only one country or alliance.

“One party should not decide the properties of such a shield but unfortunately that is happening now when decisions are being made in Europe,” Medvedev said, in a speech translated to Finnish.

Medvedev repeated plans, agreed with Obama in London, to begin talks soon to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, which expires at year’s end.

“We believe that this treaty should also limit nuclear warhead delivery systems, meaning intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-based ballistic missiles and heavy bombers,” the Russian president said. “We believe it necessary to rule out the very possibility of deploying strategic offensive weapons outside national territory.”

Earlier, after talks with Finnish President Tarja Halonen, Medvedev said he would present new proposals for energy cooperation with Russia’s partners, insisting Russia was not bound by previous agreements, including the European energy charter.

Russia has refused to sign the 1991 agreement, designed to give foreign investors a fair shot at its sizable energy sector and to respect market rules in gas and oil pricing and distribution.

Medvedev gave no details about the new proposals but said he would send them to the G-8 and 20 leading economic countries.

“Russia has often raised problems concerning the transport of energy. Unfortunately, many international documents, including the European energy charter, have not brought solutions to these problems,” he told reporters. “We have not ratified those documents, and we don’t believe we are bound by them.”

Most Russian gas supplies to Europe were cut off for weeks in January because of a price dispute between Moscow and Ukraine. The stoppage left millions of Europeans without heat during a cold spell and angered the European Union, which accused Russia and Ukraine of holding its citizens hostage to their standoff.

Medvedev and Halonen also discussed security, Finnish-Russian border trade and a proposed gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea.

On Tuesday, Medvedev was scheduled to visit the town of Porvoo near Helsinki, where Czar Alexander I declared Finland an autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire in 1809.

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