PRAGUE- Russia will not use a warship it agreed to buy from France last month against any NATO ally, the military alliance's Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Friday after some eastern European states expressed concern.
France struck a bilateral deal with Russia in February to sell it the 21,300-tonne, Mistral class helicopter carrier, raising worries among Baltic states over their security.
I take it for granted that Russia will not use or misuse this military equipment against any ally as Russia is a partner of NATO, Rassmussen said in Prague after meeting Czech interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer.
Secondly, I can assure you that NATO has all necessary plans in place to protect and defend any ally, he added.
The three former Soviet Baltic republics of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia -- now all NATO members -- voiced concern over the France-Russia deal last month.
NATO said this week that French, Polish and Lithuanian warplanes would fly training missions over the Baltic states on March 17 in a show of solidarity.
Georgia, another former Soviet republic, has also said it is worried about the sale of the warship, which Russia hopes will help modernise hardware exposed as outdated during Moscow's five-day war against Tbilisi in 2008.
France has defended its plans, saying it is important to build relations with Russia -- something NATO as an alliance is seeking to do to improve cooperation on global security issues.
NATO is particularly keen to secure more Russian support for its mission in Afghanistan, which has been struggling to contain a widening Islamist insurgency.
(Reporting by Jason Hovet; editing by Philippa Fletcher)