President Obama put the Kremlin to the test yesterday by offering to scrap a missile defence shield in Eastern Europe if it helped to stop Iran building a nuclear bomb.
He used the second day of the Reset Summit in Moscow to urge a new era of partnership between Russia and the US in combating the spread of nuclear weapons to rogue states and terrorists.
“That is why we should be united in opposing North Korea’s efforts to become a nuclear power and preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Mr Obama said.
The US plan to put a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic strained relations with Russia under President Bush. Moscow views the shield as a threat to its security, while Washington insists that it is to defend against a surprise attack from Iran. In a speech that was notably light on criticism of Russia, Mr Obama pressed Moscow to take more responsibility for stopping an Iranian bomb.
“I know Russia opposes the planned configuration for missile defence in Europe . . . I have made it clear that this system is directed at preventing a potential attack from Iran and has nothing to do with Russia,” he told an audience of students from the New Economic School in Moscow.
“I want us to work together on a missile defence architecture that makes us all safer. But if the threat from Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes is eliminated, the driving force for missile defence in Europe will be eliminated. That is in our mutual interest,” he said.