Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (R) and his Polish counterpart Bronislaw Komorowski inspect the honour guard in Warsaw December 6, 2010. Nato must ensure that Russia is fully involved in the Atlantic alliance's plans for missile defence or risk triggering a new arms race, Medvedev was quoted as saying on Monday during his two-day visit to Poland. – Photo by Reuters

WARSAW: Nato must ensure that Russia is fully involved in the Atlantic alliance's plans for missile defence or risk triggering a new arms race, Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev was quoted as saying on Monday.

Last month, Nato and Moscow agreed to cooperate on missile defence and other security issues in what they hailed as a “historic step” in setting aside past disputes.

“This should be a joint initiative of Russia and Nato that can protect us against threats,” Medvedev told the Polish weekly Wprost in an interview published to coincide with a two-day visit to Poland that began on Monday.

“(But) if Russia does not find a place for itself within that system, in 2020 it may be that an anti-missile defence umbrella will become a factor destabilising the nuclear equilibrium and diminishing Russia's defence capacity, and this may lead to a new arms race,” Medvedev said.

The Nato system will link existing European anti-missile systems to radars and interceptors the United States plans to deploy in the Mediterranean, Romania, Poland and maybe Turkey.

Nato officials say the protective umbrella will be deployed in stages from next year until 2020, when it will be capable of intercepting long-range and intercontinental missiles.

Russia has been critical of the plans, fearing they could negate the strategic value of Russia's own ballistic missiles.

Nato says the system is aimed at countering attacks from what it calls 'rogue states' such as Iran.

PROTEST

Medvedev's visit to Poland aims to build on a steady rapprochement between Moscow and its communist-era satellite as the two try to set aside long-running disputes over security, natural gas and history and to focus instead on trade.

Moscow has stepped up efforts to win Warsaw's trust since a plane crash in Russia in April killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others, mostly senior officials.

In his interview, Medvedev said the findings of the Russian investigation into the April 10 crash at Smolensk in western Russia should be made fully available to the Polish side.

A small group of protesters waved Polish flags and banners reading “We want the truth” (on the crash) near the presidential palace where Medvedev and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski were due to discuss trade, energy and security.

“I think Medvedev has a duty ... to explain to the Polish people what happened there and why he and his master (Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin have been lying since April 10 about what they did there,” said protester Edward Mizikowski, a labourer.

Some Poles, mostly supporters of the right-wing opposition Law and Justice party led by Kaczynski's twin brother Jaroslaw, say Moscow and Poland's own centrist government share blame for the crash and accuse them of trying to cover up the truth.

Also during Medvedev's visit, Russian and Polish historians will present a joint history book covering the most controversial issues in the neighbours' relations.

Russia pleased Poles last month when its lower house of parliament backed a resolution that for the first time blamed Soviet dictator Josef Stalin for the 1940 massacre of 22,000 Polish officers at Katyn. The massacre has long blighted bilateral relations.Kaczynski and his entourage had been heading to Katyn forest, near Smolensk, to mark the 70th anniversary of the tragedy whentheir plane crashed in thick fog. – Reuters