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NATO wants 'true strategic partnership' with Russia: chief

by Staff Writers
Bratislava (AFP) May 19, 2011
NATO's secretary general called Thursday for a "true, strategic partnership" between NATO and Russia after warnings from Moscow of a possible new Cold War should the two sides fail to agree on missile defence.

"My objective is to develop a true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia," NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters following talks with Slovak Foreign Minister Mikulas Dzurinda in Bratislava.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday issued a startling warning of a new Cold War era if Russia and the West failed to agree on missile defence.

Moscow is increasingly worried about US plans to build missile defence facilities in ex-Communist eastern Europe and is also offended that NATO appears to have shunned its proposals for a joint missile defence shield.

"We do have our disagreements, but we have areas in which we share interest, in particular weapons of mass destruction and missile technology," the NATO chief said Thursday.

"We have decided to develop a NATO anti-missile defence, we have invited Russia to cooperate in anti-missile technology," Rasmussen added. "Our idea is to have two independent systems that cooperate - a NATO system and a Russia system - each responsible for protection of its territory but capable of cooperation, data exchange," he said.

Moscow has been battling NATO plans to deploy a system the West sees as a means of protection from nations such as Iran but Russia believes could potentially be deployed against its own defences.

Rasmussen on Thursday repeated the long-standing Western position that its missile defence plans are in no way directed against Russia.

"Our missile defence system is not directed against Russia, we do not consider Russia as a threat to NATO and Russia should not consider NATO as a threat to Russia," he said, at once encouraging Moscow to "focus on real threats instead of focusing on ghosts of the past."

"More than 30 countries in the world have missile technology, some of them with a range that can hit targets on NATO territory," Rasmussen added.

Russian President Medvedev on Wednesday reiterated an earlier threat to pull out of the new START strategic arms reduction agreement that entered into force this year if the missile shield is deployed and operated without the Kremlin's input.

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