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Russia considering proposal to join missile shield

DEAUVILLE, FRANCE (AP): Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday his country is considering a proposal to help develop a US -led anti-missile shield for Europe but says the whole idea still worries him.

Medvedev met the leaders of France and Germany for a summit in this Normandy beach resort that appeared to bring the three European powers closer together on security issues, despite concerns from some EU nations that were glad to break free of Moscow's orbit after communist times.

Medvedev agreed to attend a summit of NATO leaders in Portugal November 19-20, expected to be attended by leaders including President Barack Obama.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking at Medvedev's side at a press conference after the summit, said she was "very happy" that he's joining NATO allies at the meeting.

Merkel urged Medvedev for Russian support in helping to fight what she called the largest common threats facing the world, including terrorism.

"We are all in the same boat when it comes to the real threats of the 21st century," Merkel said.

With terrorist threats, concerns about Iran's nuclear program and the war in Afghanistan high on European governments' minds, security was a key theme of this week's summit.

The leaders discussed NATO's proposal for an Europe-wide anti-missile defense, one that NATO's chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen hopes can be a key part of the alliance's new strategy and be adopted at next month's summit.

Fogh Rasmussen wants Russia, which strongly opposed past efforts for an US-led missile shield, to be a part of this one.

"We are evaluating this idea," Medvedev said Tuesday.

However, he added, "this issue worries us." He urged NATO members to rethink the basic purpose of the anti-missile defense. Russia questions its need, and saw a missile shield plan promoted by former President George W Bush as a threat.

NATO is now looking at expanding an existing system of tactical battlefield missile defense to cover the territory and populations of all alliance members against attack from nations such as Iran and North Korea.

France and Germany are keen to include Russia in European security issues, while some in Washington and elsewhere in the EU have been less enthusiastic.

"Germany and France consider Russia a friendly country," Sarkozy said.
The three leaders in Deauville said they made progress in talks on easing visa restrictions for Russians, but announced no breakthroughs.

Russia wants visa-free access to the 27 EU countries, some of which are former Soviet republics or Cold War allies with which Moscow has had strained relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

EU nations, meanwhile, want clearer access to Russian gas and energy deals that are fair to non-Russian investors and companies. An aide to Sarkozy said before the summit that Russia has not offered enough concessions in exchange for demands for easier visa rules.

The summit was in part an effort by France and Germany to unblock Russia's relations with the broader EU. Moscow has long ignored the EU leadership as a partner, preferring to talk to Paris, London and Berlin instead.


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