NATO, Russia must 'bury ghosts' at landmark summit: chief

3rd November 2010, Comments 0 comments

NATO's chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen Wednesday called on the alliance and Russia to "bury the ghosts" of past Cold War enmity at an upcoming summit to be attended by President Dmitry Medvedev.

The Russian president 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 the 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," the secretary general 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 alliance assurances 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."

Lavrov said that Russia wanted to see "responsible, far-sighted decisions" being taken at the summit.

He said there should now be a switch "from the stage of overcoming the consequences of the Cold War to building a true strategic partnership."

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.

Medvedev hailed an improvement in ties, saying after his talks with Rasmussen that "overall, relations between Russia and NATO have become more productive and intensive."

The positive rhetoric marks a drastic change from the sniping that followed the Georgia war, which also prompted Russian anxiety that NATO expansion could rapidly include Georgia and even Ukraine.

But Rasmussen indicated it would be unlikely that Russia itself could ultimately become a member of NATO, saying that his approach would be pragmatic to "go for a true strategic partnership."

Rasmussen's talks also to looked at cooperation with Russia in Afghanistan and 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 Soviet Union's military disaster in that country, Russia has in recent months shown a greater desire to cooperate.

"The meetings today showed we have a shared interest in bringing our relations to a new level of quality," said Lavrov.

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

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