Washington — Already three years on the drawing board, a U.S.-Russian center aimed at avoiding accidental missile launches won't open for at least another year, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.
Plans to convert a building on the outskirts of Moscow into a joint early warning center are hung up on Russia's insistence the United States pay taxes on the equipment it takes into the country and accept liability for the construction, said Philip Jamison, deputy director of the Defense Department office on international security.
Though the issues seem small in relation to the hoped-for benefits of the center that is, to prevent accidental nuclear catastrophe U.S. officials have said they don't want to set a precedent on taxes and other matters that could create problems elsewhere.
When plans for the center were announced in September 1998, then-President Clinton said it was aimed at averting "nuclear war by mistake." Officials said that because Russia doesn't have money to properly maintain its warning system, it could mistakenly think the United States had launched a nuclear missile and retaliate.
In 1995, Russia's military briefly mistook a scientific rocket from Norway for a U.S. ballistic missile. Officials say Moscow's constellation of warning satellites has seriously decayed since then, with some out of orbit and believed not functioning.