OVER THE NORTH SEA, Oct 25 (Reuters) The United States has gone as far as it can to win Russia's cooperation on a missile shield in Europe, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said today after offering to put the system in a stand-by mode.
''I think we've leaned about as far forward as we can,'' Gates told reporters on a US military aircraft en route to Washington. ''We've offered a lot and my view is now I want to see some movement on their part.'' Washington wants to place missile defence assets in the Czech Republic and Poland as part of a shield to defend against missiles from ''rogue states'' such as Iran and North Korea. But Moscow says the system threatens Russian security.
Gates on Tuesday said the United States had proposed to build the sites but place them in a stand-by mode pending proof of a missile threat. He said that was offered to the Russians in a bid to ease Moscow's opposition and encourage its cooperation.
He also said Washington offered to give Russia some presence at the sites, to promote transparency.
''I think the question is whether the Russians are serious about partnering with us, or whether this is merely a pose to try and stop us from going forward with the Czech Republic and Poland,'' Gates said.
The controversial US plans to place missile defence assets in eastern Europe, former Soviet-allied territory, has helped drive a cooling in relations between Moscow and Washington this year.
Russian officials say the American plan would lead to an arms race.
President Vladimir Putin also has called for a rebuilding of the Russian military after years of neglect in the 1990s. He said the country would build new nuclear weapons and modernize its warplanes. Already, Russia has resumed long-range bomber flights to US- and NATO-patrolled areas.
While the United States says its missile defence system is no threat to Russia, Moscow argues otherwise. Russian generals say the shield would allow the United States to scan Russia's territory as far as the Urals, and would give the Pentagon the capability to shoot down Russian ballistic missiles soon after launch.
Putin has offered the United States joint use of a Russia-leased radar station in Azerbaijan as an alternative to the missile shield in Europe. US officials view that as a possible addition to its plans, not a substitute.
Reuters SZ VP0225