Dempsey "committed' to missile defense deal with Russia

Dempsey will meet with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Russia's top military officer, within the coming weeks, the four-star general's spokesman Col. David Lapan told The Hill on Friday. 

Discussion topics and specific dates of the bilateral visit are still being worked between Washington and Moscow, the simmering issue of U.S. efforts to extend ballistic missile defense capabilities into eastern Europe will likely be at the top of those discussions. 

"I personally believe that we will find common ground with the Russian military," Dempsey said, according to Lapan. 

The visit comes as American diplomats are poised to restart talks with Russia over the missile defense program in eastern Europe. 

"I expect serious talks [on the issue] this year," U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said Thursday with local media in Russia, United Press International reported on Friday. 

Russia and the United States have been at loggerheads over the Obama administration's missile defense plans to push those American systems eastward, into European countries along the Russian border. 

Thee White House plans to field a massive network of land and sea-based ballistic missile interceptors to defend against potential long-range missile threats from Iran by 2020.

The Navy's AEGIS destroyers, warships outfitted with anti-ballistic missile weapons, are the crux of the sea-based arm of the Obama administration's European missile shield program.

Russia has strenuously opposed that plan, arguing the weapons could easily be used to take out Russian-operated missile systems stationed in the region.

Moscow has demanded that NATO sign an agreement guaranteeing that none of the weapons included in the missile shield would be used to neutralize the country's own missile defense system.

However, Brussels has balked at such a deal prompting then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev to break off negotiations with the alliance and Washington over the missile defense shield last year. 

That said, Dempsey and the Pentagon have made clear the eastern European missile shield is not and should not be a strategic concern for Russia. 

"It is not threatening strategic nuclear deterrence. It is very much oriented . . . against a rogue nation breaking out with some kind of nuclear and missile technology," Lapan said. 

The four-star general plans to reiterate that argument during his meetings with Gen. Gerasimov "We are committed to finding a way to move this thing forward, and that'll continue until we figure it out," Lapan added.