A new test for relations between Russia and the United States has arisen as Romania struck a deal with Washington Tuesday to deploy U.S. missile interceptors there, prompting Moscow to ask for "safeguards" from Washington.
This future missile shield could set one more obstacle for the talks underway between the two countries on European missile defense system, local analysts said.
Though Washington said the missile shield was to counter attacks from Iran, Moscow worried the shield could be turned against Russia, targeting its strategic nuclear forces.
The Russian Foreign Ministry swiftly released a statement after the deal was announced Tuesday, saying Moscow wants to receive legal guarantees from the United States that its missile defense shield in Romania will not target Russia's strategic nuclear forces.
Also on Tuesday, Russia was holding a high-level negotiation with the U.S. and NATO on European missile defense system, analysts noted.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said this "practical step" by Washington to create a European segment of its global missile defense system was made regardless of Russian-U.S. dialogue on anti-missile issues.
Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, former Russian navy chief of staff, said the new U.S. anti-missile defense base in Romania would break the power balance in the Black Sea area once it starts operation.
Russia should strengthen the combat potential of its Black Sea Fleet, he said.
Igor Korotchenko, chief editor of Russian "National Defense" magazine, told Xinhua the missile shield might not pose immediate security threat to Russia, but in the long run, as it upgrades, things might become more risky.
Konstantin Sivkov, vice president of Russian Academy of Geopolitical Problems, said he believes the Romanian anti-missile base is targeted at Moscow, like other numerous U.S. military bases surrounding Russia.
However, Moscow did not panic over Washington's new move, as it knew the United States would never stop deploying its global missile defense system, local media reported.
As Russia tried hard to reset its relations with the West in recent years, the United States abandoned antagonism and adopted a pragmatic strategy toward Moscow to maximize its political and economic benefits, analysts noted.
Russia is unlikely to change its general diplomatic policy even under the pressure of the new shield, analysts said, because the country continues to seek Western investment to boost its economy.
Knowing it cannot stop U.S. expansion of its global missile defense system, Moscow hopes to participate in the building of the system while reducing possible risks it could pose to Russia, experts said.
But Korotchenko said he believed that, taking the serious differences on anti-missile issues into account, it's almost a mission impossible in the short term for Russia to reach agreement with the United States or to join the European missile defense system building in a real sense.
If their talks on this issue break down, bilateral relations could worsen, and Russia has prepared for the worst scenario, local experts said.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have repeatedly said that if the anti-missile talks with the United States and NATO fail, Russia would take measures, including the deployment of its strategic offensive arms.
Russia is reportedly developing a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile to cope with the future global missile defense system.