Munich: NATO leaders on day downplayed Moscow`s
fears that a new Europe-based missile defence system
represents a threat to Russia, while vowing to move ahead with
it, even if those concerns cannot be fully addressed.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a news agency that the alliance expects to have first
elements of the defence system up and running by its summit in
Chicago in May, and that it would continue to work on getting
Russia on board with the plan.
"We have not made as much progress as I would like to see,
but there is still some time to go before Chicago and I still
hope we could reach an agreement," Fogh Rasmussen said.
"But irrespective of that, we will continue to develop a
NATO missile defense system because we feel a strong
responsibility to protect our populations effectively against
the missile threat."
The comments came on the sidelines of the Munich Security
Conference, where Russian Sergey Lavrov told delegates the
US-led plan "rings alarm bells" and suggested it risks
seriously damaging relations with Moscow.
"It should be crystal clear that Russia will not support
any scheme that would trigger a new cycle of confrontation,"
"Building opposing alliances is a formula from the past,
which will result today in sliding toward a global
Lavrov was responding after US Defense Secretary Leon
Panetta outlined the plans, which would see a radar system in
Turkey, interceptor missiles stationed in Romania and Poland,
four ballistic missile defense-capable ships in Rota, Spain,
and an operational headquarters in Germany.
"President Obama has made clear that the United States is
firmly committed to building a missile defense system in
Europe," Panetta said.
"The new defense strategy and our budget priorities
reflect that commitment."
He said, however, that the system is not "in any way a
threat to Russia."
"We made that clear time and time again, will continue to
make it clear to Russia, and we hope that ultimately we can
resolve those issues."
The US has said the missile shield is aimed at deflecting
potential missile threats from Iran - including possible
attacks on Russia - but Russia fears it will eventually grow
powerful enough to undermine its own nuclear deterrent.