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Top U.S. military commander to visit Russia on June 25-28

RIA Novosti

19:0125/06/2009 MOSCOW, June 25 (RIA Novosti) - The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, will arrive on Thursday on a three-day working visit to Russia, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

"During the visit, Mullen will meet with Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and the head of the Russian General Staff, Gen. Nikolai Makarov," the ministry said in a statement.

The statement said the sides would discuss urgent issues of global and regional security, as well as bilateral military ties.

According to media reports, the sensitive issue of U.S. missile defenses in Europe will top the agenda of the visit.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last week that any strategic arms cuts would only be possible if the United States alleviated Russia's concerns over Washington's plans for a missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland.

The U.S. military has recently reiterated its commitment to missile defense, citing a growing threat from North Korea and Iran, but suggested plans for a European site may change.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has suggested that Russian facilities could be part of the missile defense system, but Moscow has rejected this idea, saying there could be no partnership "in building facilities that are essentially designed to counter Russia's strategic deterrence forces."

Meanwhile, Russia and the U.S. are involved in talks on a new strategic arms reduction deal to replace the START 1 treaty, which expires in December.

Moscow, which proposed a new arms reduction agreement in 2005, expects Washington to agree on a deal that would restrict not only the numbers of nuclear warheads, but also place limits on all existing kinds of delivery vehicles.

However, Russia has insisted that the deployment of a planned U.S. missile defense system in Europe would greatly impede progress on strategic arms reductions.


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