MOSCOW – The United States did not follow through on a promise to provide Russia with its compromise proposals on missile defense in written form Tuesday, Russian news agencies cited officials as saying Wednesday.
A Russian diplomat, however, said the delay was probably just a technical matter, Interfax reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the proposals in a meeting with their Russian counterparts in Moscow on Tuesday that brought no breakthrough on the contentious issue of missile defense. They are aimed at easing Russia's strongly voiced concern about U.S. plans for facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic, former Soviet satellites that are now in NATO.
Gates indicated at a news conference that the Russians would get the written proposals late Tuesday.
"Despite the promises that were given, the U.S. has not yet provided us with the new written proposals on missile defense," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said, according to ITAR-Tass and Interfax. The ministry and the U.S. Embassy declined immediate comment.
Interfax quoted an unidentified Russian diplomat as saying the delay was apparently not deliberate.
"I think it's a technical issue having nothing to do with politics," the diplomat was quoted as saying.
If it drags out, however, the delay could deepen the persistent dispute over U.S. plans to place interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic.
At Tuesday's talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that Moscow still opposes the U.S. plans, which he said create "risks" for Russia, and that the best solution would be to scrap the idea. But he welcomed the proposals, saying they showed that the United States acknowledges Russia has legitimate concerns.
The United States says the facilities would protect against a potential threat from Iran, but Russian officials have said they believe the actual intent is to weaken Russia's nuclear deterrent.
The dispute is one of several that have created serious tension between Russia and the United States.
The visit by Rice and Gates was aimed to improve ties ahead of leadership changes in both countries.
Lavrov and Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov both indicated they were eager to have the proposals in writing. Last year, Lavrov accused the U.S. of backtracking on missile defense, claiming that written proposals fell significantly short of what Rice and Gates laid out orally in an October meeting.
Gates said Tuesday that the U.S. side spelled out more clearly some details of the proposals it made in the fall.
On Monday, Gates gave as an example the U.S. suggestion that Russia be allowed to monitor the activities in Poland and the Czech Republic. He said the Russians initially thought this meant they would be limited to monitoring through their diplomatic presence in the Polish and Czech capitals. Gates said that was clarified to mean the Russians would be permitted a physical — but likely not continuous — presence at the missile defense sites, and that the Russians appeared to regard this more favorably.
Russian officials have indicated they want a permanent monitoring presence and a say in evaluating when a threat from Iran would become imminent enough to warrant activating the interceptors.