Ukraine Pushes For Russian Role In NATO Missile Defence

KIEV, Ukraine -- Senior officials from Ukraine and NATO gave their support on Wednesday to cooperation on a plan for a missile shield, with Ukraine insisting on Russian participation.

Anatoly Hrytsenko

Anatoly Hrytsenko, chairman of the national security committee in Ukraine's parliament, said he supported integrating Ukraine into a pan-European air defence network but stressed that Russia should play a role in any such plan.

'Of course, this can only happen if Russia is a participant,' he said after meeting NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in the Ukrainian capital.

Rasmussen said that cooperation in the missile defence system, designed to prevent attacks by rogue states, would be in 'Ukraine's interests.'

Hrystenko emphasized the economic benefits.

'This would develop our technologies and create jobs,' he said. 'We have a more valid basis for direct cooperation (with NATO on missile defence) than most of the four dozen (NATO) members.'

The Kremlin has repeatedly insisted that a missile shield can be constructed only if Russia participates, and has fiercely criticized the current NATO plan to develop missile defences by incorporating participant countries into the programme one by one.

Russian Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov said in early February that 'any defence system built solely by NATO would be directed at Russia.'

A number of top Russian politicians have said that NATO should scrap its plan and, instead, set up a joint NATO-Russia missile shield which would be able to fire only if both sides agreed to it.

Rasmussen has rejected such an idea, though NATO leaders have talked about sharing information with Russia.

Ukraine has cooperated with NATO in training exercises since 1994. Joining NATO was a top priority for Ukraine's previous pro-Europe government, but the election in 2010 of pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych halted the accession programme.

Source: DPA