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NATO Seeks Russian Cooperation on Missile Defense

Missile LaunchingNov. 3 (Bloomberg) -- NATO sees Russia as a strategic partner and seeks to cooperate on missile defense as leaders of the former Cold War foes prepare to meet in Lisbon later this month, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

"I think we can agree on a way forward at this summit," Rasmussen told reporters today in Moscow. "We do not want to impose a specific missile defense architecture on Russia."

Rasmussen was in Moscow to prepare for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit and meet with President Dmitry Medvedev, who will attend the meetings in Lisbon. NATO will choose a missile defense system during the summit, Rasmussen said today.

NATO doesn't view Russia as an enemy, and there is an opportunity "to turn a page" in relations, Rasmussen said. The secretary general also visited Moscow in December to improve ties that were strained by the alliance's expansion toward Russia's borders and the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.

U.S. President Barack Obama last year said he was scrapping former President George W. Bush's plan to deploy a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic in the face of Russian opposition. He promised a more flexible system to protect against threats to the U.S. and its European allies, providing an opportunity to revisit Russian proposals.

"We could restart collaboration on so-called theater missile defense, which is missile defense to protect troops," Rasmussen said today. "We would like to cooperate with Russia also when it comes to territorial missile defense," Rasmussen said, adding that he doesn't expect an immediate response from Russia on the proposals.

Developing Cooperation

Medvedev said relations between Russia and NATO have improved recently.

"We are pleased because it gives an opportunity to more attentively develop cooperation and create a more sustainable system of security in Europe and in the world," he said after meeting with Rasmussen.

Rasmussen said he expects to reach an agreement with Russia on broadening cooperation with NATO in Afghanistan. Russia has allowed the U.S. military to ship cargo across its territory to Afghanistan. Both sides are in talks for Russia to deliver about 20 transport and military Mi-17 helicopters to Afghanistan.

"In concrete terms, expansion of our transit arrangement, expansion of our counter-narcotics activities as well as the helicopter package" are possible, Rasmussen said. "The main elements will be agreed at the summit and then afterwards we will have to work out the details."

Rasmussen said NATO will confirm its decision that former Soviet republics Georgia and Ukraine can join the alliance once they fulfill necessary criteria. He also moved to placate concern in Moscow that the move is directed against Russia.

"It's essential that the well-known disagreements and disputes between NATO and Russia don't overshadow the fact that there are other areas where we share interests because we are faced with the same security challenges," Rasmussen said.

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