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19 Apr, 2010 13:08

NATO calls on Russia to help build missile defense shield

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, Secretary General of NATO Andres Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance should bring Russia onboard as it plans to build a missile defense “roof” in Europe.

Rasmussen pointed out that involving Russia in “building and operating” a common missile defense shield should become a priority if the West wants to ensure that security efforts are effective.

I believe that building missile defense in a way that includes Russia would help create the true European security architecture we would all like to see,” Rasmussen said.

If the two parties do sit down to work together, it would be the first time since the two parties had agreed to jointly tackle security issues.

A Moscow-based political expert, Mikhail Troitsky, says the idea of teaming up with Russia to build a common missile defense shield in Europe is not new. Such suggestions have already been voiced by NATO officials, Troitsky notes.

I think it is an important step in the right direction – that is, involving Russia in the missile defense project,” Troitsky said. “But the question still remains: How will this project be related to the American missile defense project that has already been planned for deployment in Europe?”

The head of Russia’s State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, says there is no official attitude from the Russian side to this statement yet.

“We need to understand better how they will proceed about that inside of NATO and I don’t believe that this Thursday will bring any further clarity to that issue. The outcome of that discussion is to take place later on when the NATO summit will be held in Lisbon in December this year,” he said, adding “And in case this concept is approved by NATO, then it should be proposed to Russia officially and then we will determine our attitude to it.”

John Laughland from the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation says that Rasmussen’s statement could imply a quid pro quo arrangement with Russia.

In response to this open hand that has been extended toward [Russia] on missile defense, [Russia] may be required to join in the Western policy on Iran. I think that would be an unfortunate development,” Laughland said. “I think that Russia should continue to pursue its own policy on Iran and should not be too much drawn into the orbit of NATO, which is, after all, an organization that is in itself in great crisis.”

Rasmussen is expected to bring up the subject during a NATO conference on Thursday.