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23 Apr, 2010 11:57

Russia-NATO co-operation on ABM only possible on equal footing – Russian FM

Building an ABM system in Europe is impossible without Russia’s involvement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at news-conference on Thursday.

“Co-operation between NATO and Russia on missile defense is only possible if all states are involved. The key thing – and we’ve been saying it for years now – is that if we talk about co-operation, the co-operation should begin with the very first step: with the analysis of the missile threats, with working out the approaches to respond to these threats, and that’s the only way we can talk about co-operation,” he added.

Lavrov was responding to the recent statement made by Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who said that Russia should be involved in building an anti-missile shield in Europe. NATO’s spokesman also recently said that talks on the issue have already begun between Moscow and Washington.

On the sidelines of the NATO ministers’ meeting on Thursday, the NATO chief repeated his call for Moscow to be involved in plans for a missile defense system in Europe.

“If we co-operate with Russia so that Russia realizes that a missile defense system aims at protecting our populations, and also the Russian population, against a real missile threat, a missile defense system is not directed against Russia,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the news conference on Thuesday.

Rasmussen pointed out that the danger of a missile attack has increased recently, adding that about 30 countries either have, or are in a process of developing, nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, the future role of NATO in the world and its expansion in Europe is up for debate once again as a two-day meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers started in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, on Thursday.

Rasmussen spoke on goals and threats for NATO members, such as fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and protecting all NATO members, not just along their borders, but also from threats coming from far away.

It was more like a preparation and a very informal gathering ahead of the November NATO summit. Many expect the next summit in November, as well as relations between NATO and Russia in general, to have an unusual twist in the future, following Rasmussen’s recent comments.

If the two manage to reach common ground on building a joint anti-missile shield in Europe, it will markedly improve relations between US and Russia, and will be another step further away from the Cold War heritage.

This comes in the wake of Russia and the US signing a new START treaty earlier this month, agreeing to reduce their nuclear arsenals significantly.

The talks between Russia and NATO, which had earlier been planned to take place during this meeting, were later canceled.

"Russia refused to hold the Council meeting in Tallinn, as there are no issues for it to discuss," Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said.

However, the Russian Foreign Ministry says this statement is incorrect, as the Russian side was never officially invited.

Aaron Tovish, an anti-nuclear campaigner, thinks there are strong possibilities of cooperation between NATO and Russia in building an anti-missile defense shield.

“I think the possibilities of cooperation are good, but I think there are priorities that require cooperation much more urgently and that would be, first and foremost, getting negotiations underway on achieving a nuclear weapon-free world. And that’s something that would, in the end, obviate the need for such a missile defense shield,” Tovish told RT.

Toviksh believes that a nuclear-free world is a dream that can come true.

“The weapons can be eliminated in 10 years time. That’s a question of political will”, says Tovish.

Read also – NATO: Trying to find a strategic concept or looking for a strategy?