Levin Hopes Missile Defense Compromises Lead to Russian Assistance on Iran

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) said Monday that missile defense “will be at the center of a new set of security talks between Washington and Moscow and could become ‘a positive political tool’ rather than an impediment to better U.S.-Russian relations,” the AP reports.

If the U.S. and Russia set aside differences on missile defense and began cooperating against Iran they could make a decisive difference in weakening Iran as a missile threat, Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told a defense conference in Washington.

But Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., who is expected to be nominated soon as arms control chief at the State Department, told the conference that the threat of a future Iranian long-range missile is not a sufficient reason to build the U.S. missile defense in Europe as proposed by the Bush administration.

Russia strongly opposes a plan crafted by the Bush administration — now under review by the Obama administration — to place U.S. missile interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic. The stated purpose is to defend Europe against an anticipated Iranian long-range missile threat.

Notably, Levin did not suggest that the Obama administration bargain away the Bush-era plan for extending U.S. missile defenses to eastern Europe. There has been speculation that President Barack Obama might offer to scrap that plan in return for Russian help in persuading Iran to end its nuclear program.

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