Page last updated at 21:44 GMT, Friday, 18 September 2009 22:44 UK

Nato chief reaches out to Russia

Nato calls for new Russia partnership

Nato's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called for a new strategic partnership with Russia.

In his first major foreign policy address as Nato chief, Mr Rasmussen called for a "joint review" with Moscow of global security challenges.

On Thursday the US said it was shelving plans for missile defence bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia's Nato envoy says Moscow will now not deploy short-range missiles in its Baltic enclave Kaliningrad.

"If we have no radars or no missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland, we don't need to find some response," said Dmitry Rogozin.

'Explore links'

Mr Rasmussen, speaking in Brussels, urged the US, Nato and Russia to study a joint missile defence system.

"We should explore the potential for linking the US, Nato and Russia missile defence systems at an appropriate time," he said.

"I would like Russia and Nato to agree to carry out a joint review of the new 21st Century security challenges, to serve as a firm basis for our future co-operation."


The former Danish prime minister, who took over as Nato's head in August, also called for Moscow's co-operation on Afghanistan and Iran.

A revitalised Nato-Russia Council would provide "a forum for serious dialogue", he said.

Mr Rogozin welcomed Mr Rasmussen's address as "very positive, very constructive", but added that it needed careful scrutiny.

"Co-operation with Russia is not a matter of choice but of necessity," Rogozin said.

Pressure on Iran

Nato-Russia ties improved after the end of the Cold War but deteriorated as the 28-nation alliance expanded to take in former Soviet bloc countries, and suffered greatly after Russia's brief conflict with Georgia in 2008.

Mr Rasmussen called on Moscow for a "genuine new beginning in our relationship, in our own interests and that of the entire international community".

There is no reason to fear that these [missile defence] plans will weaken the defence of any ally
Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Referring to the US missile defence rethink, he said "the new plans will make capabilities ready sooner than the previous plans and will provide us with broader coverage".

"There is no reason to fear these plans will weaken the defence of any ally.

"Improved relations between Nato and Russia will also be to the benefit of our eastern allies," he said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday welcomed President Barack Obama's shift in US missile defence strategy as a "correct and brave" decision.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the move would make Moscow "attentive" to US concerns, but rejected any suggestion of forming "compromises or primitive deals" in response to the US announcement.

US officials say Mr Obama and Mr Medvedev will hold talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York on Thursday.

Russia had long objected to plans pursued by the administration of former President George W Bush to base a missile interceptor system close to its borders.

Afghanistan co-operation

Mr Rasmussen said tackling the proliferation of ballistic missile technology was in the fundamental strategic interests of both Nato and Russia.

Jonny Dymond
BBC Europe correspondent Jonny Dymond

In the medium and long term, the new secretary general wants to reinvigorate the Nato-Russia council and carry out a joint review of the strategic security challenges.

In the short term, he wants to deepen co-operation in a wide range of areas.

Perhaps most eye-catching was the prospect Mr Rasmussen raised of the US, Nato and Russia working together on missile defence.

When asked for detail after his speech he demurred, saying that the specifics were beyond him.

Russia should put "maximum political and diplomatic pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear aspirations", he added.

There should also be more co-operation over policy on Afghanistan, which was important for both Moscow and Nato, he said.

Asked about Nato expansion, Mr Rasmussen said Georgia and Ukraine would become Nato members as and when they satisfied the necessary criteria, but added that Moscow should not see that as a threat.

"We have to provide an atmosphere and security environment within Europe within which the open-door policy can continue, while at the same time ensuring Russia does not feel threatened."

His speech showed that Nato realises it needs to come up with a new strategic concept and essentially reinvent itself, says the BBC's defence and security correspondent, Nick Childs.

"In that sense it's generally agreed that having Russia as a partner on broad global security concerns is better than having new divisions," says our correspondent.

"But just how to put that into practice, and overcome the obstacles that are clearly still there, is a question that still has to be answered."

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