NATO to offer Russia access to US satellite dataMOSCOW - NATO will offer Russia access to some US military satellite data in exchange for its participation in a missile shield project for continental Europe, a Moscow newspaper reported Friday.
The offer will come as part of a broader deal to be extended to Russia at the NATO-Russia Council that immediately follows the 28-member Alliance's November 19-20 summit in Lisbon, Nezavisimaya Gazeta quoted a NATO source as saying.
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NATO officials in Brussels could not immediately confirm the report.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has accepted an invitation to attend the talks, which besides long-range missile defences will also focus on NATO's activities in Afghanistan, in which Russia is also taking part.
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has invited Russia to join the proposed missile shield, at the same time stressing that "we do not want to impose a specific missile defence architecture on Russia."
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that Russia was opened to such cooperation, but only if gave Moscow an equal role.
"We proceed from the fact that if it's equal cooperation... then such cooperation is quite possible," Lavrov told reporters on the sidelines of a G20 summit in the South Korean capital.
"Strategic partnership should be built on an equal basis."
Medvedev has also cautiously welcomed the deal but said Russia would like to see more details.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta cited a NATO source as saying that the deal involves a proposal to share information about missile and other threats, and to grant Russia access to some US satellite intelligence imagery, including about countries such as North Korea.
"By joining the NATO ABM system ... Moscow could strengthen the territorial security of Russia by receiving 'certain information' from US satellites -- for example, images of the DPRK (North Korea)," the newspaper wrote, citing its NATO source.
The offer's other elements include "an exchange of data with US and potentially NATO sensors, and an exchange of information about early warnings about missile launches," the NATO source was quoted as saying.
Russia would also be offered broader political consultations that give Moscow a chance to voice any potential concerns about the shield, and invited to joint NATO exercises and training sessions, the report said.
NATO officials in Brussels appeared surprised by the Moscow news report.
"I don't know what it's talking about," NATO spokesman James Appathurai said when asked about the Nezavisimaya Gazeta story.
"It's the first time I've heard of this," Appathurai said when contacted by AFP.
Moscow has fiercely opposed US plans to deploy an anti-missile system in eastern Europe.
Washington insists the missile shield is designed to fend off threats from rogue states like Iran and is not aimed at undermining Russia's missile force as a deterrent. It has promised to modify its plans.
by Ben Perry
(c) 2010 AFP