BRUSSELS, April 23 (RIA Novosti) – NATO and Russia have yet to make their partnership truly strategic but they have made real progress in many areas, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) in Brussels on Tuesday.
“Our meeting today will be another important step in the right direction – to deepen our dialogue and to step up our practical cooperation,” he said.
Stability and security in Afghanistan “remains a key priority for our partnership,” Rasmussen said.
“To further this commitment, we have worked together to train counter-narcotics experts from Afghanistan, Central Asia and Pakistan. We have also trained Afghan helicopter technicians and provided badly needed spare parts for the Afghan Air Force.”
The NRC meeting was “constructive,” Rasmussen said. It had a broad agenda and discussed “pressing international security issues.”
“This year we will take further steps in our counterterrorism projects,” he continued.
In June, NATO and Russia will test jointly developed technology to detect explosives in crowded places, he said, adding that the test would be carried out in a metro station in a European capital.
This refers to the Standex project to help identify low-capacity bombs carried by suicide bombers. The tests should establish whether Standex can not only identify the presence of explosives in the crowd but also pinpoint the bomber’s exact location.
In September the NATO-Russia joint air traffic system “will conduct a live exercise to defend against terrorist threats to civilian aircraft,” Rasmussen said.
The exercise may be conducted over the Black Sea and be based on the Information Exchange System (IES) as part of the Cooperative Airspace Initiative (CAI), one of the cooperation programs within the NRC framework.
Missile defense remains an area where “we have made limited progress,” Rasmussen said.
“It’s important that we keep working on this. We have the opportunity to reenergize our dialogue and we should use it,” he said.
Russia and NATO initially agreed to cooperate on the so-called European missile defense system at the Lisbon summit in November 2010. NATO insists there should be two independent systems that exchange information, while Russia favors a joint system with full-scale interoperability.
Further talks between Moscow and the alliance have foundered over NATO’s refusal to grant Russia legal guarantees that the system would not be aimed against Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent.
NATO and the United States insist the shield is designed to defend NATO members against missiles from emerging threat nations like North Korea and Iran, and would not be directed at Russia. The alliance has vowed to continue developing and deploying its missile defenses, regardless of the status of missile defense cooperation with Russia.
Russia has threatened a range of countermeasures to the missile shield, including deploying tactical nuclear missiles in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad and upgrading its strategic nuclear missile arsenal.