A team of US military experts have inspected a mammoth Soviet-era radar station in Azerbaijan that Russia is pushing as an alternative to contentious anti-missile defence sites in central Europe.
The Pentagon delegation said it had gathered data to determine how to respond to Moscow's offer to share the Gabala station, which it leases from ex-Soviet Azerbaijan, in exchange for the US dropping plans to deploy a radar station in the Czech Republic and missile interceptors in Poland.
"The purpose of our visit to Gabala was to gain insight into the radar's capabilities in order to fully understand the Russian proposal," said Brigadier General Patrick O'Reilly, the deputy director of the US Missile Defence Agency.
"There were no formal negotiations or consultations. The results of this visit will inform the discussion at the next US-Russia experts meeting in October," he said.
Major General Alexander Yakushin, the deputy head of Russia's space forces, said Russian experts were convinced by the meeting that the US is interested in cooperating.
"Today's intensive work can persuade us that the US is interested in continuing our work together," he said.
"We showed the basic characteristics, parameters and prospects of this facility," he said, adding that Russian experts had explained how the Soviet-era radar could be upgraded to work with US missile defence systems.
"We showed the perspectives for the radar's development and modernisation if there is a political decision to cooperate," he said.