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Will NATO missile defense idea have 'mutual benefit' for US, Russia?

Proposal for partnership follows Obama's decision to nix a missile shield based in Europe.

By Gordon LuboldStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / September 19, 2009



Washington

The partnership proposed Friday by NATO between the US, NATO, and Russia suggests the Obama administration's decision to abandon a controversial missile defense system in Europe could open up new diplomatic doors. The question will be, how wide?

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On Friday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen proposed a new alliance between NATO allies and Russia, suggesting that the countries could work together to counter a common missile threat from Iran.

"NATO and Russia have a wealth of experience in missile defense," he said in his first major foreign policy speech. "We should now work to combine this experience to our mutual benefit."

The White House announced Thursday that it was discarding a multibillion-dollar ballistic missile defense system that was to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic and was a centerpiece of the Bush administration's security stance in Europe. It cited intelligence that any attack from Iran is more likely to come from short- to medium-range missiles, and has proposed a defense system tailored to that threat with interceptors based, for now, on ships.

Some praise the move as an opportunity to change the dynamics with an old foe, relations with whom had soured under the Bush administration since Russia's invasion of Georgia in 2008. Russia viewed the plan for a land-based system in Eastern Europe as unnecessary US interference in the regional balance of power.

But Russia, which should be rejoicing in the Obama administration's decision on missile defense, is already making new demands on US trade restrictions, notes David Kramer of the German Marshall Fund, a public policy group based in Washington.

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