Russia agreed to cooperate with NATO on a missile-defense system, expanding cooperation between the former Cold War adversaries as President Barack Obama pushes the U.S. Senate to ratify a nuclear-arms reduction treaty.
“Today we have not only buried ghosts of the past that have haunted us for too long,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen after alliance leaders met today with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the end of a two-day summit in Lisbon. “We have made a fresh start.”
NATO is trying to turn the anti-missile system -- initially opposed by the Kremlin -- into a fulcrum for cooperation with Russia as part of the U.S.-driven “reset” of East-West relations. Russia and the 28-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization will create a “working group” on missile defense, according to an official Russian fact sheet.
An anti-missile shield to protect Europe and North America “offers a role for all of our allies to respond to the threats of our times,” Obama said. “We look forward to working with Russia to build our cooperation with them in this area.”
Both NATO and Russia face “common challenges and we have important common interests,” a joint NATO-Russia statement said.
Allied officials said the 10-year, 200 million-euro ($273 million) cost of the shield, as modified by Obama from a proposal by former President George W. Bush, makes it a bargain at a time of shrinking defense budgets. It would build on a smaller-scale system being developed to protect troops in the field.
Russia had objected to the Bush administration plan, which foresaw permanent anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, two nations dominated by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Russia viewed the Bush plan as a threat to its strategic arsenal.
Obama’s plan does away with fixed bases, relying on mobile and sea-based radars and interceptors that the U.S. says would be easier to tie in with Russian systems.
Obama said NATO leaders back him on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, saying it will enhance European security as well.
The treaty is awaiting ratification by the U.S. Senate. The president’s push for a vote suffered a setback this week when Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, the chamber’s second-ranking Republican and one of his party’s leading voices on nuclear-weapons policy, said the issues are too complex to resolve by year’s end.
“Early ratification of the START treaty would be to the benefit to the security of the Euro-Atlantic area,” Rasmussen said. “It is a matter of concern that a delayed ratification of the START treaty would be damaging to the overall security environment in Europe. So we strongly urge both parties to ratify the START treaty as early as possible.”
NATO members Turkey and France also raised questions about the missile shield. The U.S. aimed to sway Turkey by not naming in a summit statement its neighbor Iran as the potential missile threat, and by offering the prospect of a degree of Turkish military control over the system. French officials said they agreed to sign on after winning language that NATO considers the shield as a complement to nuclear deterrence, and not a replacement.