Policy Memos

U.S. - Russian Cooperation in Missile Defense: Is It Really Possible?

Policy Memo:


Publication Date:



The idea of cooperation between the United States and Russia in the area of missile defense has been popular in Russia since at least the early 1990s. The degree of interest has varied over time, but it has been consistently strong for most of the last decade. Disagreement on missile defenses and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which has been plaguing the U.S.-Russian relationships, actually has helped strengthen the popularity of the idea of cooperation. Just recently, the possibility of U.S.-Russian cooperation in missile defense was mentioned at least twice, in Duma hearings and in comments made by President Vladimir Putin. In both cases it was underscored that despite reservations about U.S. policy on missile defense, Russia is interested in participating in a joint missile defense development effort.
This memo examines the possibility of cooperation in missile defense in the context of existing U.S.-Russian joint projects. The main result of this analysis is that, although some kind of a joint effort is certainly possible, the area of missile defense is probably one of the least favorable ones for cooperation, because Russia and the United States lack the institutional infrastructure that is necessary to handle any kind of joint missile defense technology program. In addition, the attempts to politicize the issue by presenting it as a sign of a nascent U.S.-Russian partnership will most likely make any successful cooperation impossible. [...]

About the author

Director, Russian Nuclear Forces Project
Russian Nuclear Forces Project, Geneva; UN Institute for Disarmament Research; Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University