Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, in an Op-Ed in The Washington Post, calls Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal for NATO-Russian cooperation on missile defense "a bold initiative." VOA's Suzanne Presto talked with Kissinger on his views about this issue in New York.

Mr. Putin has proposed the creation of a new missile defense-plan that would link Russian and NATO defense systems to counter a possible nuclear threat from Iran.

Kissinger, a National Security Advisor during the Vietnam War, the Cold War and the opening to China, says the proposal is unprecedented.

"The proposal, at least in some aspects, seems to suggest that Russia and NATO and America should link together their warning systems, and to some extent their missile defense capabilities, in so far as Iran is the problem. This would be a departure from the way these issues have been handled in the past, and maybe indicate other possibilities in other fields of joint action to common problems."

Kissinger says that the current proposal needs changes to reflect broader U.S. interests. But he says Washington and Moscow should begin discussing possibilities to link their capabilities to resist an Iranian threat.

"I think that we should now focus on what can be done now, and I think the most useful thing that could happen immediately is if Russia and the United States begin a dialogue on what is, afterall, a Russian proposal and see how it would work. And then, on the basis of that, turn to other issues," he said.

He says other common issues include the global economy, environment, climate, and the threat of radical Jihad.

Last month, President Putin vowed to build up the nation's military and intelligence capabilities in response to U.S. military plans to build missile defense sites in Eastern Europe.

But Kissinger says neither the U.S. nor Russia should view the other as a security threat. He says there are more pressing issues. "Nuclear proliferation poses an overwhelming threat for the future. Islamic fundamentalism, in its Jihadist form, poses the most immediate threat. And I don't think we should choose between them. The two are, to some extent, related. If we could solve the proliferation issue, I believe that then a pattern would be set for peaceful solutions which, in time, would affect even the Jihadists," he said.

Kissinger says any U.S. plan with Russia should be adapted and extended to China. He notes that the U.S has worked closely with China on the issue of Korean nuclear proliferation, and suggests that it would make sense for the U.S. to involve China on the issue of Iranian proliferation.

"To me, China is an essential, integral part of the international system. So anything we are prepared to do jointly with Russia, we should be prepared to do jointly with China," he said.

Kissinger says the Russian proposal could be both a historic initiative and a tactical maneuver by Moscow. He adds that it is the task of statesmen to turn such foreign policy moves into positive initiatives.