By Steve Gutterman
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will use computer modelling to show how a missile shield the United States and NATO are deploying in Europe could threaten its security, a senior defense official said in remarks published on Wednesday.
A dispute over the system has hampered improvements in Russian-U.S. ties and is likely to remain an obstacle to better relations after Vladimir Putin returns to the Kremlin next week for a six-year presidential term.
Washington says the missile defense system, to be installed in four phases by 2020, is meant to counter a potential threat from Iran. Moscow says the system will undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent because it could also enable the West the ability to shoot down Russian missiles.
At a Moscow conference starting on Thursday, Russia will use results of computer modelling to show "how NATO missile defense facilities ... may affect Russia's forces of nuclear deterrence," Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov told the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
"We would like to explain, in language that is clear to military and technical experts, what consequences implementation of the U.S. and NATO missile defense plans will lead to," Antonov said.
The conference will be attended by senior U.S. and NATO officials, non-NATO European nations and countries such China and India, Antonov said. More than 50 nations planned to attend, he said.
Russia and NATO agreed in 2010 to seek ways to cooperate on missile defense but failed to reach an agreement. The Kremlin wants a binding guarantee the system will not be used against Russian weapons. The United States says it cannot agree to any formal limits on missile defense.
Madelyn Creedon, U.S. assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, told a telephone news conference: "We haven't seen the presentation and are looking forward very much to actually seeing the presentation.
"But in general the United States has been very clear that the systems are not designed nor intended to engage in any way Russia's strategic defense. It's in fact very important to us that we maintain strategic stability between the U.S. and Russia."
Moscow has said that if its security concerns were not addressed by NATO, it could deploy weapons to overcome the shield and even target missile installations.
U.S. President Barack Obama pleased the Kremlin after he entered the White House in 2009 by scrapping his predecessor's plan for long-range interceptor missiles based in Poland, part of a reset of strained ties with Russia.
But Russia remains opposed to his revised plan, saying the system, which involves shorter-range interceptors to be based in Poland, Romania and on warships in the Mediterranean, would still be able to target Russian missiles.
With no agreement expected in the near future, Russian diplomats have said Putin - who will be inaugurated on May 7 - is highly unlikely to accept an invitation to meet with NATO leaders at their summit in Chicago later this month. NATO's chief has said Putin would not go, but cited scheduling issues.
U.S. officials have repeatedly said the system poses no threat to Russia and that they are committed to putting it in place, saying the best way for Russia to ensure its security is the cooperate.
The demand for binding guarantees would be all but impossible to sell to the U.S. Congress - even if the administration wanted to do so - because of opposition to any restrictions on missile defense.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Pravin Char and Jon Boyle)