The State Department said Thursday there will be no direct link between missile defenses and U.S. and Russian offensive strategic weapons cuts in the language of the nearly finished successor to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the treaty and text of the final agreement are still being negotiated and reports that the U.S. side in the talks will link missile defenses to START are untrue.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle stated on his Russian-language blog that the new treaty will refer to missile defenses in the text. The comment prompted reports from Moscow that the U.S. had made a concession to Russia on the issue, reports Mr. Crowley said were untrue.
"As we have made clear to the Russians through this negotiation, there is no direct link between [missile defense and strategic offensive arms]," Mr. Crowley said.
"The START agreement will in no way affect our deployment of missile defense assets in Europe as our announcement last week with Romania underscores," he said. "The deployments under the phased adaptive approach will be done faster than previously planned and protect all of Europe."
A U.S. official close to the negotiations said adding missile defenses to the text of the treaty would be a concession to Russia. In the past, U.S. negotiators had said all mention of missile defense would be restricted to the treaty's opening passages.
U.S. officials have said frequently that missile defenses planned for Europe - currently made up of long-range, ground-based interceptors and ship-based missiles - are not aimed at Russia's large number of missiles.
Missile defenses have been a sticking point in the START treaty negotiations as Moscow has demanded that the treaty address missile defenses in the context of offensive arms reductions, a position so far rejected by U.S. negotiators.
The Obama administration, partly as a concession to Russia, agreed last year to scrap plans for a long-range missile-defense interceptor site in Poland and related radar in the Czech Republic. Instead, the administration will deploy shorter-range missile defenses, including the sea-based SM-3 interceptor and a future ground-based version of the SM-3 in Poland.
On Feb. 4, Romania's President Traian Basescu announced that the government there had agreed to deploy medium-range missile interceptors for the U.S. missile-defense system. The interceptors could be operational by 2015.
The announcement prompted official expressions of concern from Russia's Foreign Ministry. A spokesman said the government was seeking clarification on the Romanian plan.
Russian Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the general staff, on Tuesday said in Moscow that U.S. plans to put missile defenses in Europe threatened Russian national security and undermined Moscow's offensive missile forces, despite U.S. claims that the defenses are aimed at rogue regimes such as Iran and North Korea.
Gen. Makarov said the Russians view missile defenses "very negatively, because it could weaken our missile forces."
The general also said the new treaty "must take into account the link between defensive and offensive strategic weapons.
"This link is very close; they are absolutely interdependent. It would be wrong not to take the missile defense into account," he said in a Russian television statement.