NATO chief urges Russia's inclusion under security 'tent'
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned Friday against leaving Russia "outside the tent looking in" as the Atlantic Alliance goes ahead with plans to deploy a missile defence system in Europe.
"If we manage to create an inclusive missile defence system, it can reinforce a virtuous circle," he said in a speech in Rome.
"If Russia and other countries feel like they are inside the tent with the rest of us, rather than outside the tent looking in, it will build trust," he told military brass and business leaders at the Aspen Institute's Italian branch.
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 Czech Republic, raised serious concern in Moscow, which fears 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.
Rasmussen, who has championed improved relations with Moscow since he took the helm of NATO in August 2009, announced Thursday that NATO has invited Russia to a summit in Lisbon in November.
While admitting that "we disagree (with Russia) every once in a while, and fundamentally on some issues, such as over Georgia," Rasmussen said: "We've learned not to let that overshadow the importance and the potential of this relationship, to make us all safer."
At the November 19-20 NATO summit, Rasmussen said the 28-nation alliance should "invite Russia to cooperate, linking a (missle defence) system of ours with capabilities of theirs."
He added: "Unless we make a clear offer to Russia, we would risk that it will feel, rightly or wrongly, kept out of the tent."
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.
But relations deteriorated after the Russia-Georgia war in August 2008, leading to a freeze in ties that began to thaw last year.
© 2010 AFP