Russia says NATO is running out of time for missile defense agreement

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at NATO Headquarters, December 8, 2011

From David Brunnstrom and Arshad Mohammed, Reuters:  Russia said on Thursday that time was running out to conclude a missile defense deal with NATO, as the alliance insisted it would press ahead with a project it says is aimed at countering threats from states such as Iran. . . .

"It does not affect our strategic balance with Russia and certainly is not a cause for military counter-measures," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of the missile defense plan at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

"That said, no ally within NATO is going to give any other country outside the alliance a veto over whether NATO protects itself by building a missile defense system against the threats that we perceive are the most salient," she added.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated during a meeting with his NATO counterparts his country’s concerns about plans to station elements of the missile defense system near Russia, in NATO member states Poland, Romania and Turkey. . . .

Despite the disagreement on missile defense, [NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh] Rasmussen said NATO still hoped to reach an outline pact with Russia by the time of a NATO summit in Chicago next May.

"We do not agree yet," Rasmussen told reporters. "We all agree it is important to keep on trying to keep on talking to keep on listening to each other’s concerns… If we can agree on this issue it will take our relationship to the next level."

Lavrov reiterated a demand for guarantees that the system did not target Russia, given the stationing of the shield’s military infrastructure near its territory.

"We believe we still have some time to reach a mutually beneficial solution," he told a news conference. "We still have some time, but time is running out every day. . . ."

Russia’s NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin suggested Moscow could reduce its support for NATO’s Afghanistan campaign if it did not heed its warnings about missile defense.

"Mr Lavrov said that for us, cooperation is a complex of all the projects," Rogozin said. "You can’t say to us: ‘No on the anti-missile shield, but yes for the other projects’."  (photo: Getty)

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