Russia queries Bulgaria’s talks on Nato missile system

After a barrage of messages in the past week from Bulgarian Government leaders underlining the country’s willingness to be involved in the Nato missile defence system, Moscow has called on Nato for clarification on its talks with Sofia, the Russian foreign ministry said.

The planned missile shield featured prominently in talks in Sofia on May 20 2010 between Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and, respectively, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov and Defence Minister Anyu Angelov.

Ahead of Rasmussen’s visit, Angelov told a news conference in Sofia on May 15 that Bulgaria intended to ask for an acceleration of talks on Nato’s missile defence project, for firm decisions about it and how the collective capabilities of the alliance’s members could be used for the project.

Media reports quoted Angelov as saying that Bulgaria could be at risk from attack by short and medium-range missiles and would during Rasmussen’s visit to Sofia file a request to join the missile defence shield.

In an interview with Bulgarian-language dailies on the eve of his visit, Rasmussen repeated a message that he had expressed in March 2010 at the annual Brussels Forum, that there should be co-operation with Russia on the defence system, “so as to build a secure roof over the whole Euro-Atlantic area”.

Moscow frequently has expressed profound misgivings about the Nato missile defence system plan, even though Washington and other Nato leaders have issued a series of reassurances that it is directed at defence from threats emanating from elsewhere than Russia and does not representative an offensive of defensive posture towards Moscow.

In Sofia on May 20, Borissov confirmed that Bulgaria was willing to be part of the missile shield and Rasmussen said that Bulgaria’s commitments to the system would become clear in November 2010 at Nato’s Lisbon summit.

Nato’s new strategic concept was the overarching reason for Rasmussen’s visit to Sofia, as well as the alliance’s “open doors” policy. Speaking after talks with Rasmussen, defence minister Angelov said that he agreed with the main conclusions and recommendations of the group of experts led by Madeleine Albright, the former US secretary of state.

In Rome, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow wanted an explanation from Nato about its talks with Bulgaria. Lavrov said that the missile defence system’s architecture should be based on co-ordinated collective principles, and such an understanding had been reached between the United States and Russia, Lavrov said.

Lavrov said that Rasmussen had urged Washington to consult with Russia in dealing with the missile shield issue, something that had yet to be achieved.

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