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Combined Russia-NATO missile defense could emerge from new relationship

RIA Novosti

11:43 19/11/2010 MOSCOW, November 19 (RIA Novosti) - Missile defense, one of the thorniest points in Russia-NATO relations, could be the focus for new cooperation between the two sides after the NATO summit in Lisbon.

"It will certainly be a summit that marks a fresh start in our relations," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on the eve of the landmark November 19-20 meeting. "I hope in particular that NATO and Russia will be moving forward on missile defense cooperation."

The Russian side agrees - something the two sides have rarely managed to achieve on missile defense issues in the past.

"I consider this realistic," presidential aide Sergey Prikhodko said, adding that the realization of the system was simply a matter of "political will." He also said a joint system was possible in the "mid-term, rather than the long-term".

Russian Air Force Commander Alexander Zelin said on Tuesday the Air Force was ready to work on missile defense systems with NATO.

The Kremlin insists that the readiness to cooperate on missile defense issues should be laid down in a written document.

Rasmussen also said that the alliance is hoping for further cooperation with Russia on Afghanistan.

"We are hoping to finalize an understanding which would broaden the existing agreement on transit. It would allow for land movements across Russia both to and from Afghanistan. And the list of approved goods would be enlarged," he said.

That enlarged cooperation could include Russian training and support for Afghanistan's helicopter force.

He also expressed hope that NATO and Russia would "increase the scope" of its work on combating the drug trafficking from Afghanistan. Russian and U.S. personnel recently combined to launch raids on drug labs.

The NATO head also remarked that "new NATO" meant "a more engaged NATO, open to deeper partnerships in a wider world, including with Russia."

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