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NATO Chief Proposes Closer Ties With Russian Defense

By Lisa Bryant
18 September 2009

In another sign of closer ties between western nations and Russia, NATO's new secretary-general called on the alliance to forge closer defense ties with Moscow, possibly including the linking missile defense systems of both sides.

In his first major address since taking office in August, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called for a new beginning in ties between the Atlantic alliance and Russia.

"I believe that of all NATO's relationships with partner countries none holds greater potential than the NATO-Russia relationship," he said.

"Yet I also believe that none is so burdened by misperceptions, mistrust and diverting political agendas. We spend too much energy on what divides us. We should instead focus on what unites us," he added.

In particular, Rasmussen called on NATO members and Russia to explore linking US, NATO and Russian defense systems, saying both NATO and Russia had a wealth of experience in this field. He said both are threatened by threat of countries like North Korea or Iran possessing long-range missile technology and changes it could lead to regional proliferation.

Rasmussen's speech in Brussels offered another overture to Russia, a day after President Barack Obama announced he would scrap plans to build a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Those plans, which had been launched during the previous Bush administration, were a major stumbling block in relations between Moscow and Washington.

Rasmussen did not refer to another area of disagreement between Moscow and NATO members - the future NATO membership of former Soviet bloc countries Georgia and Ukraine. He said NATO wanted Russia to be a real stakeholder in European and international security.

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