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By Samuel R. Avro on Mar 30, 2009 with no responses

Russia Says “No” to Trade-Off of Missile Shield in Exchange for Pressure on Iran Nukes

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Dmitry Medvedev, left, and Barack Obama are scheduled to have their first face-to-face meeting on April 1 in London before the G20 economic meeting.

In the run-up to the first face-to-face meeting between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama, scheduled for Wednesday in London, there was hope that agreements could be reached on the issues of a nuclear Iran and the plans for the U.S to deploy a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe.

The assumption was, that the two sides would work toward a trade-off where the U.S. would back down from it’s missile-defense system in exchange for Russia ratcheting up the pressure on Iran.

But speaking to the BBC, Mr. Medvedev said “I don’t think any trade-offs are possible in this respect.”

Last month, Russia signaled its willingness to work in the direction of strengthening their relations with the United States.

“Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is ready for thorough and joint work on the entire agenda of bilateral cooperation, including on disarmament issues.

“What we’ve heard lately from representatives of the new U.S. administration with regard to the future of Russian-American relations has received a positive reaction in the Kremlin,” a Kremlin spokeswoman said in early February.

But now Russia seems to be digging its feet in on the issue of its support for Iran’s nuclear program.

“Our position is based on well-known UN resolutions and approaches set forth by the IAEA, namely that Iran’s nuclear program should be peaceful,” Medvedev said.

He said that Russia is “interested in securing our country and our citizens from threats posed by certain problematic states.

“But the point is that this should be done through common efforts rather than by deploying any missiles or radars along our borders when a real doubt arises as to what lies behind all this. Is it done to make us nervous, or in order to really prevent some threats?” he said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates went public on Sunday saying he believes that heavier sanctions are needed in order to deter Iran from producing nuclear weapons.

“I think frankly from my perspective the opportunity for success is probably more in economic sanctions in both places (Iran and North Korea) than it is in diplomacy,” said Gates. “Diplomacy perhaps if there is enough economic pressure placed on Iran, diplomacy can provide them an open door through which they can walk if they choose to change their policies.”

“And so I think the two go hand in hand, but I think what gets them to the table is economic sanctions,” the Pentagon chief told Fox News Sunday.

Meanwhile, a group of international leaders are joining hands in their call for the U.S. and Russia to lead the way in eradicating all nuclear weapons from the globe.

“We are urging the two presidents to seize this historic opportunity to confront the most urgent security threat to our world: the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the related risk of nuclear terrorism,” said former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel. “The two leaders can move beyond traditional arms control and, in a bold move, set the world on a course toward the total elimination of all nuclear weapons — global zero.”

Global Zero is a new worldwide, nonpartisan initiative spearheaded by more than 100 international leaders working for a binding, verifiable agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons.

Former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said, “A far-reaching joint initiative by Presidents Medvedev and Obama in favor of nuclear weapons non-proliferation and nuclear arms limitations brings the problem to the top of the contemporary international policy agenda. It would set the stage for multiplying efforts in the nuclear disarmament and arms limitations area at the bilateral, regional and global levels.”