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Europe

Medvedev demands equal treatment in relations with NATO

In his state-of-the-nation address, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signaled closer military cooperation with the West, but also warned of an arms race if Russia is not treated as an equal partner to NATO.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Dmitry Medvedev

The recent NATO summit was seen as a breakthrough in relations with Russia

Speaking on national television, as part of his annual state-of- the-nation address, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned the West and NATO of a new arms race if the US and Europe failed to agree on the thorny issue of missile defense.

"In the coming decade we face the following alternatives: Either we reach agreement on missile defense and create a fully-fledged joint mechanism of cooperation, or ... a new round of the arms race will begin," Medvedev said on Tuesday.

Russia and NATO agreed in Lisbon earlier this month that they would work together on a new missile defense shield in Europe, something Russia had previously rejected.

Standard Missile - 3 (SM-3) being launched from the USS Hopper

Obama plans to station interceptors on US Navy ships

Demanding equal say

Medvedev, who has been striking a softer note with the US and Europe in recent times and compared to his predecessor Vladimir Putin, insists that Russia to be treated as an equal partner.

But that would imply a level of military and intelligence cooperation never before seen between the former Cold War foes.

Last September, US President Barack Obama announced an overhaul of his predecessor's strategy on the missile shield, which critics said served the sole purpose of appeasing Russia, which had been opposed to US plans to build land-based missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Those plans were scrapped in favor of interceptors based on US Navy ships, designed to fend off missile threats from Iran.

Touchy topic

President Barack Obama holds the signed New START treaty with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev at Prague Castle

Obama and Medvedev await the ratification of START by US lawmakers

Missile defense has been a tetchy topic between the US, Europe and Russia since the 1980s, but the decision to invite Russia to participate in the shield was hailed as a breakthrough and seen as concrete evidence that Obama is serious about resetting relations with Russia.

But the devil is, as so often, in the details and Medvedev's warning of an arms race is a reminder that the particulars of the project still have to be ironed out.

Russia is also still waiting for the US Senate to ratify the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), signed by Medvedev and Obama in April. It's seen as the centerpiece of improved ties, but some US lawmakers are worried it may weaken US nuclear defenses.

Author: Nicole Goebel (Reuters, AFP, dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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