Russia considers restarting missile defense talks with US

Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu "expressed his desire to reconvene missile defense discussions with the U.S." during a call with Hagel, according to Pentagon press secretary George Little. 

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Restarting missile defense talks would be "an important part of U.S.-Russia relations," Hagel reportedly told Shoygu during their conversation Monday, according to Little. 

Little didn't provide much detail as to when those talks could begin, but noted that Hagel and Shoygu agreed the missile defense meetings would occur at the deputy minister level, with Defense policy chief Jim Miller leading the negotiations for the Pentagon. 

Russia and the United States have been at loggerheads over the Obama administration's plans to extend ballistic missile defense capabilities into eastern Europe. 

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.

Washington and Brussels balked at Moscow's demands, leading Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to break off negotiations over the missile defense shield last year. 

But Shoygu's comments indicate that Russia could now be now more willing to compromise with the White House on the future of the missile shield in Europe. 

The U.S. missile shield system would consist of 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.

Earlier this month, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said he remains "committed" to finding common ground with his Russian counterparts on ballistic missile defense issues. 

"I personally believe that we will find common ground with the Russian military," Dempsey said at the time, according to the four-star general's spokesman, Col. David Lapan. 

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