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NATO-Russia cooperation on despite WikiLeaks: Rasmussen

NATO and Russia will press ahead with ambitions to deepen cooperation despite leaked diplomatic cables showing the alliance has plans to defend Baltic states from any Russian attack, NATO’s chief said Thursday.

“We do not consider Russia a threat to NATO nor does NATO pose a threat to Russia,” said the Western alliance’s secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

“On the contrary, we want to develop a true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia,” he told reporters after meeting with European Union defence ministers in Brussels.

Rasmussen refused to confirm the authenticity of the secret US diplomatic cables published by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, saying NATO does not comment on “alleged leaked classified documents.”

The NATO chief recalled that the 28-nation military club, which includes Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, held a major summit with Russia in Lisbon last month when the Cold War rivals agreed to “enter a new stage” of cooperation.

NATO and Russia held a “very positive and very fruitful” meeting at ambassador level on Wednesday during which they agreed to begin work on a joint analysis of how to cooperate on a missile shield for Europe, he said.

“This is a clear demonstration that we want to move forward in our relationship and we want to preserve and maintain the positive spirit from Lisbon,” Rasmussen said.

The US diplomatic memos show that an existing defence plan covering Poland was extended to include Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania after they lobbied for extra protection following Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008.

A Russian foreign ministry source on Tuesday expressed puzzlement at the revelations, saying it contradicted a joint Russia-NATO declaration not to use force or threat of force against each other, signed at the November summit.

“Such publications raise many questions in Russia and leave us perplexed,” the source said, quoted by the Interfax news agency.