A series of Friday top-level exchanges between Russia and the United States has little chance of yielding significant progress on any key point of contention between the sides, including an entrenched dispute over Washington's missile defense plans for Europe, U.S. government personnel told Reuters.
A lack of progress on the antimissile standoff fed into President Obama's decision this week to back out of a planned September meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow has demanded a legally enforceable guarantee that sophisticated U.S. interceptors slated for deployment in Europe would never be aimed at Russian strategic missiles. The Obama administration has spurned that request, saying it does not have the authority to make such a promise.
Still, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry will mount a new effort to clear up Moscow's worries about the antimissile plans when they meet with their Russian counterparts on Friday, an U.S. government insider said.
The talks were under way as of Friday morning, the Associated Press reported. A morning exchange between Hagel and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was to be followed by a mid-day gathering of all four officials and an afternoon meeting between Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, AP reported separately on Friday.
One of Lavrov's deputies said "the American ideas [on missile defense] and our concerns seem to exist in different dimensions, and we have so far been unable to find where they intersect," Interfax reported on Wednesday.
"Without an agreement on antimissile defense which will dispel all our concerns, any further steps toward nuclear disarmament are impossible," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov added in remarks quoted on Wednesday by the Xinhua News Agency.