US President Barack Obama has denied offering Russia a deal in which Washington would slow deployment of a missile defence shield in Europe in exchange for Moscow’s help in the nuclear stand-off with Iran. Obama dismissed press reports that he wrote to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month suggesting that the US would back off if Russia helped stop Tehran developing long-range weapons.
“What I said in the letter is the same thing that I have said publicly, which is that the missile defence that we have talked about deploying is directed towards not Russia, but Iran,” Obama told reporters. “That has always been the concern, that you had potentially a missile from Iran that threatened either the United States or Europe”.
Russia has used its UN Security Council veto on several occasions to water down sanctions against Iran, which denies Western claims that it is developing a nuclear weapons programme. Medvedev meanwhile said he would not be against a joint system. “If the new US administration demonstrates common sense in this issue, and proposes an acceptable new structure, then we would be willing to negotiate,” he said.
Medvedev’s comments could signal a possible flexibility on the issue, which contributed to a sharp decline in relations between the two countries under their previous administrations. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to discuss the shield plans with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva this Friday.