WASHINGTON — Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu called his U.S. counterpart, Chuck Hagel, on Monday and expressed a desire to hold high-level talks on missile defense, the Pentagon announced.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Hagel said the desire to maintain discussions on the issue at the deputy-minister level were “an important part of U.S.-Russian relations.”
Shoigu’s call to Hagel followed a U.S. decision to abandon the final phase of a planned anti-missile system in Europe designed to combat Iran’s ballistic missile threat but deeply unpopular in Moscow. Although the U.S. decision was seen by analysts as a key to reviving arms control talks with Russia, Russian officials have reacted coolly to the development, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov insisting it had not been viewed as a “concession.”
U.S. President Barack Obama vowed in his State of the Union address in February to work with the Kremlin to reduce both Russian and American stockpiles of nuclear weapons.
Since the ratification of the START Treaty, which was signed by Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in April 2010, talks between the two former Cold War rivals have stalled.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Monday that Hagel and Shoigu had discussed a range of issues in their call, including the situations in Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran and Syria.