NATO and Russia Can Defend Together

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Russia

From Anders Fogh Rasmussen, New York Times:  NATO and Russia have held many discussions on missile defense. We have made it clear that our missile defense system is not directed at Russia. It is designed to protect European nations in NATO against threats from outside Europe; it is a defensive system.

Allies and NATO as a whole have made three practical proposals to allay Russian concerns. First, we offered transparency on missile defense programs through exchanges at the NATO-Russia Council, which is our forum for political dialogue, and we issued a standing invitation to Russian experts to observe and analyze missile defense tests. Second, we proposed holding joint NATO-Russia theater missile defense exercises next year. And third, we suggested establishing two joint missile defense centers, one for sharing data and the other for supporting planning.

Russia has also said it needs legal guarantees that NATO missile defenses are not a threat. In fact, when NATO and Russia signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act in 1997, we agreed that we will refrain from the threat or use of force against each other. So the guarantee has been there for over a decade.

Some of President Dmitri Medvedev’s recent comments about NATO’s missile defense system reflect a misunderstanding of the system. As a result, Russia has suggested deploying missiles in areas neighboring the alliance. Such suggestions reflect the rhetoric of the past and are inconsistent with the strategic relationship NATO and Russia agreed to seek. I am, however, pleased that Medvedev has not closed the door on continued dialogue with NATO about missile defense.

Missile defense cooperation can radically change the way NATO and Russia look at each other. In the 21st century, confrontation is not a choice. The only real choice is cooperation.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen is the secretary general of NATO.   (photo: Reuters)

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