Brussels—NATO defense leaders on Wednesday attempted to convince Russian officials that it’s in their country’s best interest to partner with NATO on its European missile defense. These talks took place during the alliance’s defense ministerial meetings at NATO headquarters here. Although Russia agreed to open discussions on a partnership during the 2010 Lisbon summit, Russian leaders have since expressed concerns that a European missile shield would weaken the effectiveness of Russia’s nuclear deterrent. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters Wednesday following a meeting of the Russia/NATO Council that he is optimistic that the two sides can reach an agreement by the next NATO summit in May 2012. However, Russian officials came out of the same meeting saying their voices still are not being heard. “I have listened . . . and we’ve also conveyed a very clear message to the Russian prime minister,” said Rasmussen. “My main message is that NATO does not pose a threat to Russia. It would be in the interest of Russia to engage in a positive association with NATO and focus on real interactions instead of some ghosts from the past that don’t exist anymore.”
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.