Russia Offers NATO Strategic Missile Defense Partnership

Russia is offering to engage NATO in a strategic partnership to counter possible missile threats, RIA-Novosti quoted a senior Foreign Ministry official Thursday.

As an alternative to U.S. plans to deploy elements of a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland, Russia has proposed the joint use of a radar station that Russia leases from Azerbaijan.

Later, Russia also offered the joint use of a missile early warning system it is building in the south of the country.

"We are offering strategic partnership - an international system to neutralize missile threats, said Anatoly Antonov, director of the Foreign Ministry Security and Disarmament Department.

Referring to a recent session of the Russia-NATO council, he said that Russia's case has been heard but not necessarily heeded, and added that the discussion would continue in the course of missile defense consultations with the United States in Washington July 30-31.

During his recent two-day stay at the Bush family home in Kennebunkport, Maine, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to U.S. counterpart George W. Bush the exchange of information on missile launches and using a radar being built in southern Russia for early missile warnings.

U.S. plans to place elements of its missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic has become one of the main points of contention in bilateral relations, bringing them recently to their lowest point since the Cold War.

In an initial response to the U.S. move, Moscow threatened to point Russian warheads at Europe and pull out of a conventional arms reduction treaty, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), but seemingly softened its stance with Putin proposing at a Group of Eight leading industrialized nations summit in Germany the joint use of the Gabala radar in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

Under a program for the development of Russia's Space Forces, a Voronezh-type early warning radar is being built in the Krasnodar Territory in southwest Russia, former Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said last December.

Construction of the new radar is expected to be completed in 2007.

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