Stavridis urges more NATO-Russia dialogue

March 26, 2013 at 10:41 AM

STUTTGART, Germany, March 26 (UPI) -- The top NATO and U.S. European Command commander Tuesday called for more NATO-Russian cooperation, saying any stumbling blocks must be addressed.

In a blog posted on the U.S. Defense Department website Tuesday, U.S. Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, based in Stuttgart, Germany, said payoffs have been noted since the military alliance's 2010 meeting in Portugal when it and Russia agreed to pursue "a true strategic partnership."

"Overall, we enjoy cooperation and some level of partnership in a variety of important areas," he said. "On the other hand, there are clearly challenges in the relationship."

Stavridis noted several areas where increased Russia-NATO cooperation has paid off, including counter-piracy measures; support for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan; military exchanges and training exercises; and counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics efforts.

There remain disagreements, Stavridis said, noting Russia's objections to the European missile defense shield.

"Russia sees the NATO missile defense system as posing a threat to their strategic intercontinental ballistic missile force," he said. "We strongly disagree, and feel that the system is clearly designed to protect populations against Iran, Syria and other ballistic-missile-capable nations that threaten the European continent."

NATO and Russia also disagree over Russian troops in Georgia and NATO's role in Libya, Stavridis said.

"Notwithstanding differences on particular issues," Stavridis said, "we remain convinced that the security of NATO and Russia is intertwined."

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