NATO, Russia must 'bury ghosts' at landmark summit: chief
NATO's chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen Wednesday said the alliance and Russia must bury the ghosts of the past at an upcoming summit, as he sought to persuade Moscow to join a missile defence system.
President Dmitry Medvedev is to attend NATO's Lisbon summit on November 19, marking a major thawing in relations after the crisis caused by the war between Russia and pro-Western ex-Soviet state of Georgia in 2008.
"I think that the summit will send a clear message to the Russian people. NATO does not see Russia as an enemy. We see Russia as a partner of strategic importance," Rasmussen said on a visit to Moscow.
The "summit is a real chance to turn the page once and for all to bury the ghosts of the past," he added, speaking after talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
In a bid to take relations to a new level, NATO has invited Moscow to join its proposed new missile defence shield, but Moscow has still voiced suspicions over its purpose, despite assurances from NATO that it was not aimed at Russia.
"NATO is trying to develop a NATO-based territorial missile defence system and we would very much like to cooperate with Russia in that respect," Rasmussen said.
Medvedev stressed last month Moscow needed to hear more about the project and Rasmussen insisted the alliance was in no way pressuring its former Cold War-era foe.
"We do not want to impose a specific missile defence architecture on Russia," he said.
"Today, I suggested a procedure, a way forward and I hope we can agree it at the summit."
Previous US plans to deploy an anti-missile system in former Soviet satellite states in eastern Europe angered the Kremlin, despite Western assurances they were aimed at states like Iran.
Rasmussen's meetings in Moscow -- which later Wednesday were to include talks with President Dmitry Medvedev -- were also to look at his proposal for Russia to supply Afghan government forces with helicopters.
Despite keeping a careful distance from the West's troubles in Afghanistan and mindful of the the Soviet Union's military disaster in the country, Russia has in recent months shown a greater desire to cooperate.
Afghan president Hamid Karzai reacted furiously on Saturday after the US and Russia announced they had carried out a joint raid on drug labs in Afghanistan, saying they did not have his permission and violated the state's sovereignty.
© 2010 AFP