3 Dec 2009

NATO Spokesman James Appathurai: NATO wants to discuss missile defense with Russia and plans to cooperate with Russia in tackling the problem of Afghanistan

NATO plans to discuss missile defense problems with Russia at a NATO-Russia Council meeting on December 4, NATO Spokesman James Appathurai said in an interview with Interfax.

The participants in the meeting are likely to discuss how new U.S. plans on missile defense could be harmonized with NATO plans, he said.

While Appathurai refrained from predicting a possible result of the discussion, he said he was sure that Washington‘s intention to employ NATO in its missile defense system would be supported in general, although no details, like its cost and other things, will be discussed.

Speaking about NATO‘s relations with Russia, Appathurai noted that the 2008 crisis in Georgia showed vividly that, despite disagreements on interpreting the conflict, NATO and Russia understand that they should work together. When they have common analysis of threats and a working program, they would have a good basis for cooperation, he said.

NATO and Russia obviously face common security problems, and they should do more than they are doing now to solve them, he said.

Combating not only terrorism but also extremism in Afghanistan is NATO‘s job, but Russia has generously offered its support, which the alliance accepted gratefully, Appathurai said.

With this support, NATO could do more in combating terrorism and drug trafficking in Afghanistan and be more successful in fighting terrorism in broader terms, he said.

Spokesman told also, that NATO planed to cooperate with Russia in tackling the problem of Afghanistan at several levels.

Negotiations with a number of countries on the transit of non-lethal supplies intended for NATO forces deployed in Afghanistan are in their final stages today, Appathurai said.

NATO will start using this transit route when all agreements are achieved, the alliance‘s spokesman said, adding that Russia has already allowed certain NATO member-countries to deliver their cargo to Afghanistan across its territory.

Further negotiations will be held on methods of this transit, the possibility of expanding the range of NATO supplies intended for Afghanistan and other details, Appathurai said.

NATO is also interested in working together with Russia to train personnel in charge of combating drug trafficking, the spokesman said.

Specialists trained as part of the NATO-Russia Council‘s programs have confiscated a majority of drug hauls in Central Asian countries and Afghanistan, Appathurai said.

Russia could also help upgrade Soviet-era military hardware used by NATO member-states and Afghanistan, the spokesman said, adding that such an initiative is being discussed today.

Addressing NATO‘s strategy in Afghanistan, Appathurai said that the alliance‘s armed forces will focus on protecting the civilian population and will devote more energy and money to training and equipping Afghanistan‘s security forces.

Tens of thousands of servicemen, primarily from the U.S., will join the NATO-led contingent in Afghanistan within the next few weeks, the alliance‘s spokesman said.