Official: US-Russia missile defense talks 'close to a dead end'

Negotiations with Russia on U.S. missile defense plans in Central Europe threatened to collapse Thursday as soon as they got started.

State and Defense Department officials hoped to use the two-day meeting in Moscow to make the case that U.S. plans for a missile defense network in Europe don't threaten Russia. But Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov is having none of it, warning Thursday that the talks are "close to a dead end."

The breakdown could embolden the Obama administration's foreign-policy critics, who have called efforts to "reset" relations with Russia misguided. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in particular has called Russia the "No. 1 geopolitical foe" of the United States.

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Gen. Nikolai Makarov, a Russian defense official, went one step further than Serdyukov and warned that Russia would use pre-emptive force if the United States goes forward with its plans to deploy elements of a missile defense shield in Poland by 2018, the BBC reports

"A decision to use force pre-emptively will be taken if the situation worsens," Makarov is quoted as saying.

The U.S. plan calls for a buildup of sea- and land-based systems that the administration says is designed to protect European nations and U.S. troops in Europe from a growing threat of missile attack from North Korea and the Middle East, particularly Iran. Administration officials had struck a hopeful tone Wednesday before heading to Moscow for the meeting between the United States, Russia and NATO.

"We view this as an opportunity to exchange various viewpoints on missile defense," Madelyn Creedon, the assistant secretary of Defense for global strategic affairs, told reporters in a telephone briefing from Moscow. "And also as an opportunity to hear various views of our colleagues from the approximately 50 countries that we understand have sent representatives to this meeting."

Creedon is heading the U.S. delegation along with Ellen Tauscher, special envoy for strategic stability and missile defense at the State Department.