Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A crucial debate on Europe’s anti-missile defences

Excerpts from a commentary of the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs - Sergei Lavrov for the Financial Times regarding the debate over installation of US ABM systems in Poland and the Czech Republic:

The plan by the United States to deploy parts of its missile defence system in Europe has kicked off debate on an issue of vital importance to the continent: whether Europe needs anti-missile defences at all. This concerns everybody and the open debate testifies to the healthy state of European politics.

Russia is ready to take part in these discussions at all levels and in any format. One can only welcome the agreement reached recently by presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush to hold consultations on the subject, in the context of collaboration on our joint security. We are ready to respond positively to any positive signals coming from the US.

What is the Russian position? First of all, for us – and for many others in Europe – it is unacceptable for anyone to use the continent as their own strategic territory. Any unilateral anti-­missile projects would fundamentally alter the continent’s geo-strategic landscape. It would also be an affront to all Europeans, as it would devalue the continent’s pan-European and multi­national organisations – including Nato and the European Union – which we were told until just recently were the keystones of European security.

We favour an integrated approach to solving the problems of the Euro-­Atlantic region – in a trilateral format, including Russia, the EU and the US. No side should have any suspicions about what the other two partners are doing. It solves the problem of maintaining the integrity of European policy and safeguarding it from dangerous fragmentation. It would also streng­then the transatlantic bond – but in an inclusive way, with the participation of Russia and other countries that do not belong to Nato or the EU. <...>

Fifth, discussion of a missile shield in Europe marks a watershed in European politics. Nothing can replace co-operation in security, which demands such a high level of mutual trust, or in overcoming the past and rebuilding the unity of the continent.

Either we take a decisive step forward, or European politics will go into reverse, bearing out the fears of those who saw in the expansion of Nato and the EU the potential for new dividing lines to be drawn in Europe.

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