NATO, Russia seek new trust at New York talks

22nd September 2010, Comments 0 comments

NATO and Russia will seek to build a new foundation of trust at a key meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, encompassing common threats and lingering disagreements.

The foreign ministers-level meeting of the NATO-Russia Council comes as the 28-nation alliance waits for Russia to respond to an invitation to hold a full-scale leaders summit in Lisbon on November 20.

The New York talks are seen as way to lay the groundwork for that summit, and will discuss issues including NATO-Russia cooperation on Afghanistan and the controversial US missile defense scheme.

The US ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder told reporters on Tuesday that the session in New York was designed to provide a new channel of communication between the western alliance and Moscow.

"The NATO-Russia Council is a place where we can do business, where we can work together to resolve issues of common concern ... and also where we can continue to have a dialogue about those issues on which we disagree," he said.

"NATO wants, the United States wants, all of the allies want, a relationship with Russia, a partnership. We don't want an adversary. We're not looking for an adversary. We don't think Russia is an adversary.

"But just as friends disagree we will find that there will be times when NATO and Russia will disagree.

"That's not a bad thing -- that's just the reality. The bad thing is when we can't talk about it."

Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, has said that the Russian national security council will examine the summit invitation announced by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen last week.

NATO and Russia held their last meeting at the level of heads of state and government in April 2008 in Bucharest.

The Lisbon meeting would take place after NATO leaders hold their own summit in the Portuguese capital November 19-20.

Russia and the West are at odds over the disarmament of conventional weapons in Europe, the situation in Georgia following the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war and NATO's eastward enlargement and the membership of post-Soviet states.

But the two sides have identified common interests in the face of threats such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation and drug trafficking as they gingerly revive ties that had sunk to a new low following the war in Georgia.

On the Afghan front, Russia cooperates in the fight against drug smuggling and allows the transit of supplies, except weapons, for NATO troops through its territory.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said last week that NATO should invite Russia to cooperate on a missile defence system at the Lisbon summit.

The NATO-Russia Council was created in 2002 as a forum for the two former Cold War foes to hold a dialogue on security issues.

"The record of the past eight years shows how far we've come," said Rasmussen, who has championed improved relations with Moscow since he took the helm of NATO in August 2009.

Daalder said that social interactions between NATO diplomats and their Russian diplomats were also important in building the new basis of trust.

"Sometimes it takes a glass of wine or even of vodka to get some deals struck. That should not be alien to anyone in the diplomatic world."

Rasmussen wants Russia to be included in plans to build an "inclusive" missile shield.

Anti-missile defence systems already in place within the NATO alliance fall under a US shield that has missile interceptors in the United States, Greenland and Britain.

Plans under the previous US administration for it to be extended into eastern Europe, notably with installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, drew strong protests from Moscow. It feared the project could upset the conventional and nuclear balance to its own detriment.

But President Barack Obama last year scrapped the plan in favour of a "phased, adaptive approach" involving sea- and land-based missile interceptors and sensors based partly on a reassessment of the threat from Iran.

© 2010 AFP

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