NATO allies meet amid tensions with Russia, Pak

NATO and the US have sought to improve ties with Russia since President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

Last Updated: Dec 07, 2011, 15:51 PM IST

Brussels: NATO allies meet on Wednesday hoping to
calm Russian fears over their missile shield project but US
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angered Moscow by
criticising its Parliamentary elections.

Hillary is joining her 27 alliance counterparts in
Brussels for two days of talks that will also touch on the
Afghan war amid tensions with Pakistan after a NATO air strike
on the Afghan border last month killed 24 Pakistani troops.
They will then meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov tomorrow to tell him the missile shield will go ahead
but that NATO still wants to negotiate a cooperation deal with
Moscow, alliance diplomats said.

A diplomat said NATO wants to "calm things down" after
Russia activated a radar warning system in its exclave of
Kaliningrad on the EU`s borders last week, days after
President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to deploy missiles there.
"Some of President Medvedev`s recent comments about
NATO`s missile defence system reflect a fundamental
misunderstanding of the system," NATO Secretary General Anders
Fogh Rasmussen wrote in Russia`s Kommersant newspaper
yesterday.

The Russian threats "reflect the rhetoric of the past,"
Rasmussen said.
While he was pleased that Medvedev did not shut the door
on dialogue, Rasmussen indicated that NATO will continue to
refuse to provide legal guarantees that the system does not
threaten Russia.

Western officials insist that the missile shield is aimed
at countering Iran.

NATO and the United States have sought to improve ties
with Russia since President Barack Obama took office in 2009.
But Hillary irked Russia by voicing "serious concerns"
about the parliamentary elections and calling for allegations
of fraud and vote-rigging to be investigated.

"As we have seen in many places, and most recently in the
Duma elections in Russia, elections that are neither free nor
fair have the same effect," Hillary said in Lithuania on
yesterday.

The Russian foreign ministry described Hillary`s comments
as "unacceptable" while Medvedev said it was "none of their
business" what Russia`s political system looked like.

Despite lingering suspicions between the former Cold War
foes, Russia has allowed the alliance to use its territory to
send vital supplies to troops in Afghanistan.

The transit route through Russia has become all the more
important since Pakistan shut down supply lines in anger at
last month`s deadly air strike on the Afghan border. NATO has
launched an investigation into the raid.

PTI