MOSCOW, October 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is concerned by U.S. missile defense talks with countries outside NATO, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Thursday.
The statement came following reports on talks between the United States and Ukraine on the possible use of the latter's radars or deployment of a new radar in the ex-Soviet state as part of the American missile defense program.
"We know that the U.S. administration has held discussions with its partners, including outside NATO, since it scrapped the plans [for a missile shield in Europe]," Ryabkov said.
"We are following the situation, and it would be an exaggeration to say that it inspires hope. We are concerned," he said.
Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S., Oleh Shamshur, said earlier on Thursday that discussions on the issue were still at a "preliminary stage."
Ukraine has two major radar stations, in the Crimea and in the western Mukachevo region. Russia rented the stations until February 2008.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow recently said the United States was considering Ukraine as a possible site for a radar station as part of its new missile defense configuration in Europe.
According to U.S. magazine Defense News, Vershbow "added Ukraine to the list of possible early warning sites." He said Ukrainian officials "have mentioned" their interest in participating.
Analysts in Russia said a decision to place a radar in Ukraine would deal a blow to relations between Moscow and Washington.
U.S. President Barack Obama in September scrapped plans to deploy a radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland due to a re-assessment of the threat from Iran. Moscow fiercely opposed the plans as a national security threat. The move was also seen as part of efforts to "reset" ties by the two former Cold War foes.
Moscow welcomed the move, and President Dmitry Medvedev said later that Moscow would drop plans to deploy Iskander-M missiles in Russia's Kaliningrad Region, near NATO-member Poland.