Outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has spent much of his tenure at the Pentagon trying to broker a deal between the United States and Russia that would permit the deployment of a limited missile-defense system in Europe but bring Russia into the process as a participant. This will be one piece of unfinished business passed along to his successor.
Alex Grigoriev, at Voice of America, reports that the distance between the two sides on this issue remains considerable. If there was some degree of optimism in Washington following the passage of the New START treaty that progress could then be made on this issue, building on the "reset" of relations, those hopes have been dashed. Indeed, some experts predict that the issue is likely now to be tabled by both presidents until after their respective 2012 election campaigns.
But we are also running up against the clock of deployment. Sooner or later, decisions have to be taken on installations, locations where ships will be deployed, and so on. At some point the United States will have to decide to move on even without an agreement with Moscow--and run the risk of undermining other agreements, including the New START agreement--or it will have to delay in order to give talks more time to produce results.