NATO Sees Russia as Missile Defense Partner

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2011 — Express­ing con­fi­dence that the Russ­ian par­lia­ment will rat­i­fy the New Strate­gic Arms Reduc­tion Treaty, NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Anders Fogh Ras­mussen said he’s look­ing for­ward to mov­ing ahead dur­ing the first half of 2011 on mis­sile defense coop­er­a­tion with Rus­sia.

Ras­mussen, speak­ing on his video blog post­ed yes­ter­day, hailed the land­mark deci­sion between NATO and Rus­sia at the alliance’s Novem­ber sum­mit in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal, and empha­sized NATO’s “strong com­mit­ment to enhance and deep­en our coop­er­a­tion and to keep the spir­it of Lis­bon alive.”

NATO and Rus­sia agreed at the sum­mit to begin work­ing togeth­er toward devel­op­ing a con­ti­nen­twide mis­sile defense sys­tem.

“For the first time, NATO nations and Rus­sia will be coop­er­at­ing to defend them­selves,” Ras­mussen said of the new mis­sile defense coop­er­a­tion. “Our cit­i­zens in Europe will share enhanced secu­ri­ty, and that is unprece­dent­ed.”

Coop­er­a­tion on mis­sile defense is an impor­tant step­ping stone toward devel­op­ment of the over­all secu­ri­ty rela­tion­ship with Rus­sia, he said. “It could be a vehi­cle for even fur­ther prac­ti­cal coop­er­a­tion and con­fi­dence-build­ing in the years to come,” he said.

“This is sim­ple log­ic,” he added. “Increas­ing­ly, we share many threats to our com­mon secu­ri­ty.” As exam­ples, he cit­ed ter­ror­ism, the grow­ing nar­cotics trade, pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass destruc­tion and pira­cy.

The mis­sile defense sys­tem will pro­tect peo­ple in NATO-mem­ber nations and Rus­sia against the grow­ing mis­sile threat, Ras­mussen said. He rec­og­nized that more than 30 nations have or are seek­ing a mis­sile capa­bil­i­ty. “This is a devel­op­ment we can­not ignore,” he said.

As NATO and Rus­sia eval­u­ate the best ways to coop­er­ate in mis­sile defense, Ras­mussen said, NATO envi­sions “two inde­pen­dent but coor­di­nat­ed sys­tems, work­ing back to back.”

This will offer sev­er­al ben­e­fits, he explained. It will pro­mote infor­ma­tion exchange, pro­vide a wider pic­ture of the skies over Europe and with it, improved pro­tec­tion of Russ­ian as well as allied ter­ri­to­ries.

Ras­mussen said NATO will offer Rus­sia trans­paren­cy about its sys­tem that pro­vides assur­ance that it isn’t –- and can’t be -– direct­ed at Rus­sia.

Also, by main­tain­ing two inde­pen­dent sys­tems, he said, both NATO and Rus­sia can avoid “out­sourc­ing our secu­ri­ty to one anoth­er.”

NATO secu­ri­ty is based on col­lec­tive defense,” he said. “And I assume that Rus­sia, as a strong and inde­pen­dent nation, also wants to be ful­ly in con­trol of its defense sys­tems.” Ras­mussen said he looks for­ward to “con­struc­tive dis­cus­sions with Rus­sia in the months ahead” that will build on com­mit­ments made at Lis­bon.

Mean­while, the Rus­sia par­lia­ment is con­sid­er­ing rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the New START Treaty. Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma and Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Dmit­ry Medvedev signed the treaty in Prague in April, and the U.S. Sen­ate rat­i­fied it last month.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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