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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NATO Seeks New Era of Cooperation

APAnders Fogh Rasmussen gesturing while speaking in Brussels on Friday.

BRUSSELS — NATO’s chief called on Friday for the United States, Russia and NATO to link their missile defense systems against potential new nuclear threats from Asia and the Middle East, saying that the old foes must forget their lingering Cold War animosity.

Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen appealed for unity a day after the United States shelved a Bush-era plan for a Central European missile defense shield that has been a major irritant in relations with Russia.

“We should explore the potential for linking the U.S., NATO and Russia missile defense systems at an appropriate time,” Fogh Rasmussen said in his first big policy speech since taking office in August.

“Both NATO and Russia have a wealth of experience in missile defense. We should now work to combine this experience to our mutual benefit,” he said.

Russian envoy Dmitry Rogozin said the NATO chief’s address had a “very positive tone.”

“Cooperation with Russia is not a matter of choice but of necessity,” Rogozin said.

Fogh Rasmussen called for a reconsideration of NATO-Russia relations. He said long-range ballistic missile technology in the hands of such countries as North Korea and Iran threatens both the West and Russia.

“If North Korea stays nuclear, and if Iran becomes nuclear, some of their neighbors might feel compelled to follow their example,” he said.

Making NATO and Russian missile defense systems interoperable is a minor issue compared to finding enough political will to let software and other experts at radar sites and command centers exchange military data on a sustained basis.

Since 2003, NATO and Russia have staged at least four simulated missile defense exercises. Both sides say they were successful.

“They showed [NATO’s and Russia’s] missile defense systems could be made interoperable,” Rogozin told reporters Friday. “They showed this can enhance the level of security for everyone.”

A NATO diplomat, speaking privately, said “there were even plans for a live exercise.”

That did not happen, said the official, because of political turmoil in the NATO-Russia relationship.

In his address to the Carnegie Europe think tank in Brussels, Fogh Rasmussen said NATO and Russia remain hostages to Cold War thinking.

“When the Cold War ended 20 years ago, NATO and Russia developed rather unrealistic expectations about each other,” he said. “Those flawed expectations … continue to burden our relationship.”

NATO is troubled by Russia’s recognition of the rebellious South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions in Georgia as independent states, and there is lingering mutual mistrust.

A key irritant in NATO’s relations with Moscow is the drive to bring ex-Soviet states and satellites into the alliance, which now has 28 members. The membership prospects of Georgia and Ukraine especially have soured relations.

While proposing an unprecedented level of military cooperation with Moscow, Rasmussen said NATO would continue to admit new members if they are judged suited for membership.

Rogozin said Russia continues to object to NATO’s claim to be Europe’s premier security provider, saying the alliance must formally recognize the Collective Security Treaty Organization that Moscow created in 2002. Its members include Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Rogozin said Moscow needed to remain realistic about relations.

“If I was only born yesterday, I would be delighted, but I was not born yesterday,” he said, adding that there had been several false starts in efforts to improve relations.

(AP, Reuters)