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17 Dec, 2009 12:02

“NATO will never attack Russia” – Rasmussen

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has visited Moscow to seek greater assistance from Moscow for the military effort in Afghanistan. His main argument was that the alliance does not consider Russia as an enemy.

But Anders Fogh Rasmussen failed to get any guarantees from the Kremlin.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he was willing to open up discussions and better relations though, ones which have been frozen for more than a year after the war in South Ossetia.

“Relations between Russia and NATO have gone from the Cold War confrontation to a partnership in modern times . Decisions have been taken. Through all this we’ve reached a new level of cooperation,” President Medvedev said.

In his first visit to Moscow as alliance chief, Rasmussen asked Russia to provide helicopters and arms, as well as help in training Afghan troops. But while Moscow says it is willing to help the war effort in Afghanistan, it is still deeply suspicious of the former Cold-War adversary, NATO.

Giving helicopters to a US-backed campaign, especially for free, is something which some in the Kremlin find hard to swallow.

But tension has eased between NATO and Moscow in recent months – and Rasmusen has stressed his determination to strengthen ties.

“I’m here to confirm that one of my priorities as secretary general of NATO is to improve the relationship between NATO and Russia. We know that we have some disagreements faced with the same security threats,” NATO Secretary General said.

And one of the biggest common threats is the Taliban – which is why some NATO member states, such as the US and UK, have increased the number of troops they are sending to Afghanistan.

Russia has ruled out troop involvement after suffering devastating losses during the 10-year Soviet War in the country in the 1980s.

Moscow has made it clear it will not contribute troops to the Afghan campaign, though it will cooperate in other ways. Despite the lack of a firm deal, analysts here say talks alone were signs of a coming together. And indeed Rasmussen was keen to stress, Russia is a friend not an enemy of NATO.

NATO Secretary General expressed hope to have a common missile defense system with Russia by 2020.

“A united missile shield in the Euro-Atlantic area will not only protect us all against proliferation, but bind us together politically as well,” he said in his speech before students at Moscow State University of International Relations. “NATO will never attack Russia, and we don’t think Russia will attack us. We have stopped worrying about this and Russia should stop worrying about us as well.”

On the other hand, Rasmussen also said NATO has no intention of compromising on principal issues.

“I would like to send a very clear message to Russian people. NATO is not directed against Russia. NATO is here to protect our people in our member states against the new threats of today and many of these threats are common threats for NATO states and Russia,” Rasmussen pointed out at a news conference earlier on Thursday.

According to the NATO Secretary General, it is necessary that the Russia-NATO Council becomes an effective forum where the sides can discuss all issues openly. NATO is interested in boosting the partnership with Russia in fighting the drug trafficking in Afghanistan.

He has also mentioned that NATO is ready to discuss Russia’s initiative on European security, adding, though, that he does not see the necessity of the new agreement as “we have enough documents on European security.”

Read also – NATO Chief Arrives in Moscow To Have Russia Involved in Afghan War