US President Barack Obama has reassured east European allies that cooperation over missile defence with their Soviet-era master Moscow does not mean NATO will cede partial control to Russia.
“We believe that missile defence is something we should be cooperating in with the Russians because we share external threats,” Obama said after a meeting with Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski, as he wrapped up a European tour.
“But we think it is very important that NATO remains in charge of NATO defence capabilities. That’s one of the central principles of NATO,” he underlined.
NATO members in the ex-communist bloc are wary of moves to bring Russia on board in an anti-missile system.
Kremlin talk of a “sectoral approach” – jargon for different big players having their zones of responsibility – chills some nations formerly under Moscow’s thumb.
The NATO plans, reaffirmed at a 2010 alliance summit in the Portuguese capital Lisbon, have been folded into a US drive to create a shield to ward off threats from so-called rogue states like Iran.
Ex-communist Romania and Poland have agreed to host part of a revamped US missile shield, with deployment planned by 2015 and 2018 respectively.
Those plans have been hotly disputed by Russia, which has dubbed them a menace to security on its doorstep – although Obama insisted the shield “would not be a threat to the strategic balance”.