Friday, January 21, 2011

NATO Sees Russia as Missile Defense Partner

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2011 – Expressing confidence that the Russian parliament will ratify the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he’s looking forward to moving ahead during the first half of 2011 on missile defense cooperation with Russia.

Rasmussen, speaking on his video blog posted yesterday, hailed the landmark decision between NATO and Russia at the alliance’s November summit in Lisbon, Portugal, and emphasized NATO’s “strong commitment to enhance and deepen our cooperation and to keep the spirit of Lisbon alive.”

NATO and Russia agreed at the summit to begin working together toward developing a continentwide missile defense system.

“For the first time, NATO nations and Russia will be cooperating to defend themselves,” Rasmussen said of the new missile defense cooperation. “Our citizens in Europe will share enhanced security, and that is unprecedented.”

Cooperation on missile defense is an important stepping stone toward development of the overall security relationship with Russia, he said. “It could be a vehicle for even further practical cooperation and confidence-building in the years to come,” he said.

“This is simple logic,” he added. “Increasingly, we share many threats to our common security.” As examples, he cited terrorism, the growing narcotics trade, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and piracy.

The missile defense system will protect people in NATO-member nations and Russia against the growing missile threat, Rasmussen said. He recognized that more than 30 nations have or are seeking a missile capability. “This is a development we cannot ignore,” he said.

As NATO and Russia evaluate the best ways to cooperate in missile defense, Rasmussen said, NATO envisions “two independent but coordinated systems, working back to back.”

This will offer several benefits, he explained. It will promote information exchange, provide a wider picture of the skies over Europe and with it, improved protection of Russian as well as allied territories.

Rasmussen said NATO will offer Russia transparency about its system that provides assurance that it isn’t –- and can’t be -– directed at Russia.

Also, by maintaining two independent systems, he said, both NATO and Russia can avoid “outsourcing our security to one another.”

“NATO security is based on collective defense,” he said. “And I assume that Russia, as a strong and independent nation, also wants to be fully in control of its defense systems.”

Rasmussen said he looks forward to “constructive discussions with Russia in the months ahead” that will build on commitments made at Lisbon.

Meanwhile, the Russia parliament is considering ratification of the New START Treaty. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty in Prague in April, and the U.S. Senate ratified it last month.

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