Russia voices scepticism over NATO missile shield

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The Russian ambassador to NATO voiced scepticism on Friday over an offer from the transatlantic alliance for Moscow to cooperate in a missile shield project for Europe.

"We do not understand what cooperation we are talking about," ambassador Dmitry Rogozin said, one day after a NATO ministerial conference during which the alliance renewed an invitation to Russia to join the anti-missile system.

"We do not really understand the sense of the project NATO is proposing," Rogozin said at a roundtable discussion in Brussels on NATO-Russia relations.

Russia has been suspicious about the aims of the missile shield project even though NATO insists that the goal of the system is to protect Europe and North America from hostile states such as Iran and North Korea.

"When we ask about the concrete technical parameters of the ballistic missile defence project, when we ask about the zone of application, who is nominated as the enemy in this case, we don't see a response," Rogozin said.

Russia has asked NATO to limit the deployment of interceptors so they are solely used against short- and medium-range missiles and not aimed at Moscow's strategic deterrence, but NATO "does not want any limitations," he said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who has offered Russia the chance to join the anti-missile system, has also invited President Dmitry Medvedev to attend a summit in Lisbon next month. Russia has yet to respond to the invitation.

Medvedev will meet on Monday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the French northwest seaside town of Deauville.

Merkel and Sarkozy will need a lot of "conviction" to convince Medvedev of the virtues of a missile shield, Rogozin said.

The ambassador also said he hoped the French and German leaders would give more information about NATO's "strategic concept," which will shape the alliance's vision for the next decade.

The strategic concept has not been made public but it is expected to touch on modern threats such as missile strikes from "rogue" states and cyber assaults. NATO leaders will endorse the document in Lisbon on November 19-20.

© 2010 AFP

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