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New US-Russia arms race? Battle lines grow over missile defense.

Defense Secretary Gates and his Russian counterpart will sit down for high-level talks Thursday. US plans for antimissile deployments are spurring threats that Russia might withdraw from the New START nuclear treaty.

By Correspondent / June 8, 2011

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (r.) shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov during a meeting at the Russia-NATO Council in Brussels on Wednesday, June 8.

Jason Reed/Reuters

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Moscow

Moscow's previously troubled relations with NATO have improved greatly over the past two years, but the sleeping elephant in the room – the widening gap between Russian and Western visions for a missile defense shield to defend civilization from rogue attacks – may be about to wake up and turn nasty.

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Matters could come to a head Thursday, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates meets his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov, at the first high level meeting of the Russia-NATO Council since ties cooled following Russia's brief summer war with Georgia in 2008.

Last November, at NATO's Lisbon summit, presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev agreed to search for a joint formula to build a system that would protect Eurasia and North America without threatening Russia's aging nuclear deterrent, seen by the Kremlin as the foundation of its national security.

But if anything, the two sides have grown further apart since then, with Mr. Medvedev warning bleakly at a press conference last month that Russia might be forced to withdraw from the New START nuclear-arms reduction treaty and potentially plunge Europe into a new arms race if current US plans for antimissile deployments are carried out.

"Russia is growing disappointed because our concerns aren't being taken seriously," says Alexander Khramchikin, deputy director of the independent Institute of Political and Military Analysis in Moscow. "It turns out that improvements in our relations are fleeting, based on nothing substantial, while on the big issues NATO does whatever it wants and just makes Russia face the fact."

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