Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned that a new arms race would result if the West and Russia were unable to reach an agreement on a missile defense system. In his annual State of the Nation address on Tuesday, he called for cooperation with the European Union and the U.S., but warned that tensions could rise quickly, reports Reuters. In the speech, he noted:
In the coming decade we face the following alternatives: Either we reach agreement on missile defense and create a full-fledged joint mechanism of cooperation, or ... a new round of the arms race will begin.
In a recent summit in Lisbon, NATO extended a historic offer to join in a missile defense shield to Russia, which stopped short of accepting the offer. At the time, Russia agreed to be involved in the development of the shield, but said it would not be part of the plan if "it doesn't feel it is being treated equally as a partner."
Missile defense has been a sore point between the U.S. and Russia for some time. The New York Times reports:
Missile defense has been a longstanding impediment in relations between Russia and the West. Russian leaders staunchly opposed a Bush Administration plan to deploy elements of a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, claiming that such a system could be directed against Russia. President Obama altered the Bush plan in part by changing the location of missile interceptors, a move that assuaged Moscow's fears somewhat.
Most of Medvedev's speech was focused on domestic issues, as Russia's population continues to decline due to a low birthrate and high mortality rate. In light of the changing demographic, Medvedev introduced a number of initiatives aimed at improving children's lives, according to the Telegraph.