WASHINGTON, May 12 (RIA Novosti) – NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen stressed the importance of cooperation with Russia on a European missile defense shield on Wednesday, but failed to offer a solution to a critical rift between the two sides on the issue.
Speaking at the University of Chicago during a visit to the United States, Rasmussen described the shield as “great opportunity to advance our relationship with Russia.”
After years of dispute over the issue, Russia and NATO agreed to cooperate on the missile defense shield at a summit in Lisbon in November. However, the sides remain in dispute over how the shield should be implemented. While NATO favors two separate shields which exchange information, Russia is pushing for a joint system.
“If we can make our missile defense systems coordinate and communicate, it will be the first time that – instead of building security against each other – NATO and Russia will build security together,” Rasmussen said on Wednesday.
“This is well within our grasp. With the continued support and leadership of the United States, I am convinced we can make it a reality.”
Initial U.S. plans to deploy a radar station and anti-missiles near Russia’s western borders infuriated Russia. Washington claimed the shield was necessary to protect the United States and NATO allies from a potential missile strike from Iran, but Moscow said the shield undermined Russia’s defense capabilities.
NATO leaders agreed in November to consider the Russian proposal and a task force of Russian and NATO military experts will present an assessment of the joint system to defense ministers from both sides in June.
“That work of connecting two systems, with one purpose, is ongoing,” Rasmussen said in Chicaco. “There are many difficult technical, legal and political issues still to be solved, but we are making good progress.”