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Russian Foreign Minister Spokesperson on NATO and Missile Defence, 8 December 2008

Response by Russian MFA Spokesman Andrei Nesterenko to a Media Question Relating to Decisions on Missile Defense Adopted at NATO Council Meeting in Brussels, 8 December 2008.

Question: The NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on December 3 reaffirmed the invariability of the alliance's line on creating an "integrated" missile defense system in Europe. This objective is planned to be achieved by combining the proposed deployment of a third US GMD site in Poland and the Czech Republic and the efforts currently being undertaken in NATO. The declared aim of these measures is to protect the allies from "long-range" ballistic missiles.

In the communique released after the meeting, the ministers voiced a disposition towards strengthening cooperation between NATO and Russia with respect to missile defense. How could you comment on this?

Answer: The statement by the NATO foreign ministers evokes a mixed reaction. On the one hand, it expresses a wish to continue interaction between Russia and NATO in the field of missile defense. This is a positive step, since that interaction was actually frozen by the alliance after the well-known actions of Georgia against South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But time puts everything in its place; the NATO countries have investigated and understood the situation and are now sending Russia a positive signal. We will study it.

On the other hand, it is obvious that the NATO line on creating an "integrated" missile defense system in Europe is beginning to take on ever more concrete forms. The alliance's plans envisage completing an analysis of the schemes for a "comprehensive" antimissile architecture no later than February 2009. The report to this effect will be submitted at the next meeting of NATO heads of state and government. We draw attention to the fact that participation by Russia in shaping a European missile defense concept and in defining its "direction" (against what missile threats?) is not provided for. But the fact that all of NATO's antimissile schemes, according to the final communique, will include the proposed third US GMD site in Poland and the Czech Republic gives the grounds to assert that the "integrated" European missile defense system will have an anti-Russian potential. Neither the call on the Russian side to accept the US proposals for cooperation in the missile defense field, nor the alliance's readiness to explore the potential for linking United States, NATO and Russian missile defense systems at an appropriate time changes the essence of the matter. We must take into account the real capabilities of the missile defense systems to be established by the United States and NATO and envisage the measures to compensate for a likely disturbance of the balance of forces resulting from the deployment of such systems, of which the Russian President spoke recently.

At the same time, we do not remove the task of cooperation with the US and NATO in countering the spread of missiles and missile technologies from the agenda. We are ready for constructive dialogue and leave the door open for real and equal partnership in the assessment of existing and potential missile threats and in responding to them.

Source: Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, www.russianembassy.org.

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