The US Army stands for cooperation with Russia in the sphere of ballistic missile defense.

The latest developments confirm validity of the information that the United States might abandon its plans to develop the third position area in East Europe. US Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn said that deployment of killer missiles in Poland and installation of a radar in the Czech Republic were but "one of the options" and that the final decision was to be made yet.

An important statement was made this Tuesday at the meeting of the US Senate Committee on Armed Services. Lynn, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff James Carthright, and Missile Defense Agency Director Patrick O’Reilly were invited to the meeting to promote the MDA budget for the next financial year. (The MDA had asked for $7.8 billion.)

Lynn and O’Reilly spoke of ABM partnership with Russia. To quote Lynn, “At the international level, two issues demand unwavering attention – ballistic missile defense in Europe and ABM cooperation with Russia. Concerning the former, the final decision will have to be made yet. US approach to it stipulates a search for cooperation with foreign partners including Russia to alleviate the Iranian threat.”

O’Reilly was more eloquent. He informed the audience that he had been to the Russian radar in Gabala (Azerbaijan) in 2007 and therefore could appraise its “valuable contribution to the US and NATO ballistic missile defense efforts” from firsthand knowledge. The general announced as well that he had discussed “potential spheres of cooperation in the matter of ballistic missile defense” with representatives of the Russian government in Moscow not long ago. The talks were centered around lasers, joint research, and data-exchange initiatives. What information is available to Nezavisimaya Gazeta indicates that these talks took place in late May. “We stay in touch with the Russians so as not to miss the chance to design an American-Russian ABM system,” O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly added that the radars in Gabala and in Armavir (Russia) were “perfect” for keeping an eye on missile tests in the Middle East and that data from them could greatly contribute to the future ABM framework. “As a matter of fact, there are other variants of these radars’ integration. We discussed these ideas,” he said.

Carthright in his turn advocated ABM cooperation with Russia which he called expedient from the technical, operational, and diplomatic standpoints as well as from the standpoint of intelligence.

Committee Chairman Carl Levin praised the generals for their efforts to establish cooperation with Russia also promoted by US President Barack Obama, State Secretary Hillary Clinton, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman were given the floor then. Their comments showed that not everyone in Washington was sold on the idea of cooperating with the Russians in so sensitive a matter.

Lieberman admitted being “upset” by Lynn’s words. “I thought the decision (on the Czech Republic and Poland) was final… I know that we ought to talk to the Russians. I’m aware of the advantages of partnership with them but not when they demand to high a price in terms of our commitments to allies in East and Central Europe who were part of the USSR once,” he said. The senator emphasized that abandonment of the plans to install elements of the ballistic missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland would disturb allies in Prague and Warsaw as well as in Ukraine. Concerning the latter, Lieberman said that Ukraine had “aired concerns over Moscow’s muscle-playing.”

Igor Lyakin-Frolov of the Russian Foreign Ministry explained that ABM cooperation with the United States was but an option at this point. “Nothing specific has been suggested so far. We regard the ABM issue as inseparable from general matters of strategic stability in Europe and throughout the world,” he said. “In any event, we are open for a dialogue and we will discuss anything they suggest.”

Experts call the Russian-US cooperation in the sphere of ballistic missile defense an extremely positive development but doubt that it will ever come to pass.