NATO urges Russia not to waste money on missile response
NATO's chief urged Russia on Wednesday to refrain from wasting money to counter a European missile shield, insisting that Moscow would be chasing an "artificial enemy".
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO still wants to reach a deal with Russia to cooperate in the system after President Dmitry Medvedev threatened last month to deploy missiles to EU borders.
"It's a shared interest to protect our populations against a real missile threat," Rasmussen told reporters ahead of a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers that will include talks with Russia's Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.
"It would definitely be a waste of valuable money if Russia started to invest heavily in countermeasures against an artificial enemy that doesn't exist," he said.
"That money could, in a more profitable way, be invested to the benefit of the Russian people in job creation and modernisation of the Russian society."
NATO and Russia agreed at a Lisbon summit last week to explore ways to cooperate in the missile shield project, but the two sides have struggled to reach a compromise.
Rasmussen said progress had been slower than expected but he voiced hope a deal could be reached at a NATO summit in Chicago in May.
Moscow wants its former Cold War foe to provide a legally-binding document stating the shield is not aimed against Russia, but NATO says it has made enough statements to that effect and that cooperation is the best solution.
"We continue consultations but our legitimate concerns are not being taken into account," Lavrov said during a visit to Lithuania.
In response to NATO's plans, Russia recently activated a radar warning system against incoming missiles in its exclave of Kaliningrad on the borders of NATO and EU members Lithuania and Poland. Moscow has also said it was prepared to deploy Iskander missiles there.
Western officials say the missile shield is aimed at countering Iranian missiles.
© 2011 AFP