Gates pessimistic about Russia talks

( AP )- It is up to the Russians to show they are not pursuing a "sham game" to thwart U.S. efforts to establish missile defense sites in Europe, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday.

"My view is we've put a lot on the table" in recent negotiations, Gates told reporters flying with him to Moscow, where he was to be joined by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "Now it's time for them to reciprocate."

Gates and Rice were to meet President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Dmitry Medvedev on Monday in advance of daylong talks Tuesday with the Russian defense and foreign ministers. The sessions come five months after a similar engagement in Moscow that produced no discernable progress toward agreement.

Gates said he and Rice were bringing no new missile defense proposals to the talks, which will cover a wide range of topics, including cooperation against terrorism, future arms control talks and economic relations.

Gates indicated he was not particularly optimistic about the chances of a breakthrough on missile defense.

"We think there is the potential for some progress and we'll just see," he said. "I wouldn't get too enthusiastic at this point."

In the in-flight interview, Gates was asked whether he thinks the Russians genuinely object to U.S. missile defense sites in Europe on security grounds, as they have insisted for months.

"Truth is, I don't really know," he said. "I don't know whether there are genuine concerns on the part of the Russians that we can allay and where we can be partners," or whether their counterproposals for sharing radars and other suggestions are "all basically a stalling exercise" by the Russians.

"At some point the Russians are going to have to decide whether they want to be true partners - which we're offering - or whether this is all just a sham game on their part to (stop) the whole deal," he added.

The Bush administration is negotiating with Poland to establish a base there for 10 missile interceptors. They would be linked to a radar site in the Czech Republic, if the Czech government agrees. The system would be part of a wider network of interceptors, radars and communications sites in the United States and elsewhere for defending the United States and its allies against long-range missiles.

In their meetings in Moscow last October, Gates and Rice said the Bush administration would considering delaying activation of the proposed sites in Poland the Czech Republic until hard evidence is in hand regarding Iran's development of a ballistic missile capable of reaching Europe and beyond. The Russians have not accepted that proposal.

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