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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.

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'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.

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.


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