Just when it looked like Russia and the United States were about to finalize the terms of a bilateral nuclear arms reduction agreement to replace the START I Treaty that expired last December, their longstanding bilateral missile defense dispute has exploded again.
The latest crisis arose after the president of Romania, apparently for domestic political reasons, gratuitously revealed that his government would allow the United States to station ground-based interceptor missiles on Romanian territory. A week later, Bulgarian officials confirmed that they, too, were contemplating hosting U.S. missile interceptors, although no formal talks had begun. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov justified his government's willingness to consider the deployments by framing them as a contribution to NATO's ballistic missile defense (BMD) architecture and citing alliance "solidarity."
Although U.S. officials claim they have briefed their Russian counterparts about U.S. missile defense activities, Russian government representatives insisted they were caught unaware by the recent revelations, which they argued violated Washington's commitment to keep Moscow fully informed of its plans. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called for "detailed explanations" from Washington, to clarify "why after the Romanian 'surprise' there is a Bulgarian 'surprise' now."