Moscow, 11 May 2001 (RFE/RL) -- A top-level U.S. delegation, led by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, has begun talks in Moscow with Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov and Russian arms control officials. The talks are focused on Washington's plan to build a missile defense system. The United States is trying to get Moscow to soften its opposition to the project.
These are the first direct talks on the issue since U.S. President George W. Bush's election.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said yesterday the plan needs "very detailed discussion." He said Russian officials will tell the U.S. delegation their stance on the strengthening of strategic stability. But today's discussions are only due to last two hours.
Russia opposes the plan, saying it violates the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. Russia also says the plan could trigger a new arms race.
The U.S. administration argues that the treaty is outmoded and not suited to modern security threats.
Yesterday, Wolfowitz said he and German officials discussed on 9 May how to move forward on the issue of missile defense in ways that are "cooperative rather than confrontational."
Germany and other NATO allies have expressed reservations about the missile system, also saying it could lead to a new arms race.