Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates heads to Moscow

Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates heads to Moscow

( Reuter )- The United States wants Russia to make the next move in missile defense negotiations and will offer no new American proposals when top officials meet in Moscow on Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday.

"We've put a lot on the table and now it's time for them to reciprocate," Gates told reporters en route to Moscow.

Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet with their Russian counterparts and President Vladimir Putin on a U.S. plan to put a radar installation in the Czech Republic and missile interceptors in Poland.

Washington says the system is designed to protect against attacks from what it calls "rogue" states, specifically Iran. Moscow strongly opposes the system and says it could be directed at Russia.

Gates and Rice offered late last year to grant Russian officials access to the sites that would be used for the system and to keep the system non-operational until Iran's long-range missile threat was demonstrated.

There has been no subsequent progress, according to U.S. defense officials. Asked if he thought a deal could be close, Gates said, "that would be an overstatement."

"I wouldn't get too enthusiastic at this point. We're here to make an effort and we'll see what we can do, but we're going to have to see some give on the Russian side at some point," Gates said.

Unlike previously scheduled meetings of U.S. and Russian officials, the upcoming session in Moscow came suddenly after a telephone call between Putin and President George W. Bush. It should have been held in the United States, based on the rotation, but Gates said he and Rice hoped meeting in Moscow might facilitate an agreement.

"Obviously anything that's agreed is going to have to be agreed by President Putin, potentially by President-elect (Dmitry) Medvedev, and I think it was Condi's and my calculation that if we were in Moscow and that communication line was a short one that the potential for making progress might be enhanced," he said.

The U.S. and Russian officials may also address issues including arms control, counter-terrorism, arms sales and Russia's possible support in the war in Afghanistan.

NATO said on Saturday it was nearing a deal to use Russian land and air space to supply its security forces in Afghanistan. But Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza said Russia offered help in the hope of persuading NATO allies not to admit Ukraine and Georgia to a Membership Action Plan -- a step on the road to joining the Western defense alliance.

Asked if Russia was seeking that tradeoff, Gates said: "If they are they're not going to get one."

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