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Putin urges US to scrap trade barriers

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday praised President Barack Obama's decision to scrap plans for a missile defense system in Europe and urged the US to also cancel Cold War-era restrictions on trade with Russia.

world Updated: Sep 18, 2009 17:14 IST

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday praised President Barack Obama's decision to scrap plans for a missile defense system in Europe and urged the US to also cancel Cold War-era restrictions on trade with Russia.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Western alliance and Russia should consider linking their defensive missile systems.

He said NATO and Russia have a shared interest in combatting the proliferation of intercontinental ballistic missile technology in East Asia and the Middle East.

"If North Korea stays nuclear and if Iran becomes nuclear, some of their neighbors might feel compelled to follow their example," Fogh Rasmussen said.

Obama's predecessor, George W Bush, had pushed to base elements of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, saying it would help defend against a missile attack from Iran. But the Kremlin strenuously objected, fearing that the system would compromise Russia strategic nuclear capabilities or be used to eavesdrop on Russian military forces.

Russian leaders in the past threatened to deploy short-range missiles to the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad near Poland if the US moved ahead with the missile defense plan.

On Friday, the Interfax news quoted an unnamed Russian military-diplomatic source as saying that such retaliatory measures would now be frozen and, possibly, fully canceled in response to Obama's decision to scrap the missile defense shield. Russian president Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday praised the US decision to dump the missile defense plan as a "responsible move."

While praising Obama's decision on missile defense, Putin challenged Washington to also cancel all existing restrictions on trade with Russia and give the go-ahed to World Trade Organisation membership for Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

"I very much hope that this right and brave decision will be followed up by the full cancellation of all restrictions on cooperation with Russia and high technology transfer to Russia as well as a boost to expand the WTO to embrace Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan," Putin said at an investment forum in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Putin stressed that the Cold War-era trade restrictions hurt American business as much as Russia. He lashed out at the US administration for using the so-called "CoCom lists" to discriminate against Russia.

CoCom, or Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls, was established during the Cold War to tightly control technology exports to the Soviet Union and its allies.

"Formally these lists have been thrown out, but in reality a large part of them are in still in place," Putin said, urging American panelists at the Sochi investment forum to push their government to lift the restrictions.

"This hurts Russia's cooperation with its partners, first of all with the United States," he added. "This also hurts American business because it hampers development of their business contacts in Russia."

Russia has spent years trying to get the US to scrap a handful of restrictive laws on bilateral trade, including the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a key Cold War-era legislation that has been a key irritant in relations between Moscow and Washington.