NATO calls for linking of US, Russia missile defences
Brussels: The United States, NATO and Russia should consider integrating their missile defence systems, the Western alliance's secretary general said on Friday.
In a major speech outlining his vision for enhanced ties with Moscow, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen issued his call 24 hours after US President Barack Obama's decision to scrap a plan to install an anti-missile shield and radar in Eastern Europe.
"NATO wants Russia to be a real stakeholder in European and international security," Rasmussen said at the Western alliance's Brussels HQ. "We need Russia as a partner in resolving the great issues of our time.”
"We should explore the potential for linking the US, NATO and Russia missile defence systems at an appropriate time," he underlined.
Offering to embrace Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's ideas for a joined-up security arrangement stretching from the Far East to the west coast of America, Rasmussen asked in return for Moscow to exert maximum pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme.
"I believe that a NATO-Russia dialogue could provide real added value. We must all aim for a Euro-Atlantic security architecture in which Russia sees herself reflected," the former Danish premier stressed.
Studying how to tackle the proliferation of ballistic missile technology is in "NATO and Russia's fundamental strategic interest, he added.
Calling for a joint review with Russia of global security challenges, he said, "I would like to see NATO and Russia agree to carry out a joint review of the new 21st century security challenges to serve as a firm basis for our future cooperation.”
"I believe that NATO and Russia should immediately look to reinforce our practical cooperation in all the areas where we agree we face the same risks and threats to our security -- and there are many of those areas," Rasmussen added.
As Rasmussen was speaking, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin praised as "correct and brave" Washington's decision to shelve former president George W Bush's plans.
Seeking "practical cooperation" with Moscow on global defence issues, Rasmussen said that he was aware that NATO-Russia relations "can quickly become hostage to domestic politics" and admitted that his proposals will require "considerable political will."
Rasmussen's olive branch comes at a time when Cold War-style Western reflexes have been on edge following Russia's short war with US ally Georgia.
Tense posturing over efforts to bring Ukraine into NATO's sphere of influence and fears over global energy security given Moscow's vast oil and gas reserves have further strained ties in recent years.
Poland and the Czech Republic -- where parts of the missile shield were to be based -- officially put a brave face on Obama's decision, saying it did not signal any deterioration in ties with Washington.
Ties between Moscow and the West have been slowly recovering since Obama took over at the White House, promising a "reset" in their relations.
Russian media also reacted warmly to the developments over missile defence plans, with the Kommersant daily saying Obama's decision removed "one of the main irritants" that lingered from predecessor George W Bush's policies.
"This step can be considered the first real manifestation of Washington's widely proclaimed 'reset' and a decisive break with the policies of the previous administration," Kommersant wrote.