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NATO supports U.S. ABMs in Europe

Russia and NATO are still locked in talks over the role of a Russian radar base in the future U.S. anti-missile shield. NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer has said that Russia's proposal to use the Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan is not an al

The comment was made at Russia-NATO Council in Brussels where Russia’s new Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov is meeting his NATO colleagues.

President Vladimir Putin used the recent G8 summit to offer the Gabala base, located in Azerbaijan, as a replacement for yet-to-be-built bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, which Russia views as a threat to its security.

As for President of Azerbaijan Ilkham Aliyev, he says he agrees on the joint use of the Gabala-based radar.

However, Mr Aliyev added he is against the deployment of new military bases, saying the co-operation should be limited to the use of the station.

Anatoly Serdyukov has been warmly welcomed by the members of the Council. However, it is also clear that the relations between NATO and Russia have not been at their best recently, mostly because of the U.S. plans. On this issue Mr Serdyukov is holding a series of bilateral meetings, among which is a meeting with NATO Secretary General and the U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

But Robert Gates says that the Russian radar can be an addition to the missile shield, but can't replace it.

“I was very explicit in the meeting that we saw the Azeri radar as an additional capability and that we intended to proceed with the expand radar in the Czech Republic,” said Robert Gates, U.S. Defence Secretary.

But NATO is not happy with the U.S. anti-missile shield either. It says member countries in Southern Europe won't come under its umbrella. NATO wants to see if they could be covered by a short-range system incorporated into the U.S. shield.

“NATO for our part we will now begin the study of what this U.S. system will mean for Europe and how our system can complement it potentially to make sure all our allies have protection,” James Appathurai, NATO spokesperson.

Aleksandr Pikayev, a political analyst from the Committee of Scientists for Global Security, commented to Russia Today that Russia and the U.S., and not NATO, hold the key to finding a resolution.

To read full version of RT interview with Aleksandr Pikayev please follow this link

Another important issue discussed is the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. Several NATO countries have not yet ratified it and Moscow has cited this as a reason for a temporary withdrawal from the treaty. However, not much progress has been achieved here so far.

As part of the treaty Russia agreed to withdraw from Soviet era bases in Georgia and Moldova in 1999, at which time NATO countries were obliged to ratify their side of the agreement. Since then the map of Eastern Europe has changed with new NATO members and expansion of NATO's military infrastructure into Romania and Bulgaria. Russia now believes the treaty is outdated and is threatening to withdraw.

But its not all bad news, Russian Defence Minister Serdyukov has praised the work done by Russia and NATO in combatting drug trafficking from Afghanistan. He has also agreed for Russian naval units to take part in NATO exercises later in the year.