Moscow (AFP) June 26, 2007
Russia warned NATO on Tuesday against policies that could destabilise security in Europe, but both sides agreed to continue talks on deep divisions between the former Cold War foes. After meeting with President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in turn said Russia's threatened pull-out from a key arms control pact would be "a very negative development."
The NATO chief also said that Russia should not resort to strident diplomacy in disputes. "That's no reason to start worrying, no reason to use the same old stereotypes. That's no reason to use the megaphone," he told reporters.
De Hoop Scheffer met with Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for talks on disputes ranging from US plans for missile defence to Western backing for independence in Kosovo to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty.
Russia and NATO need to ensure "each other's security and not take steps aimed at strengthening someone's security at the expense of someone else," Lavrov said at a Russia-NATO Council meeting in Moscow.
"We value our NATO partners' readiness to discuss these questions openly with us," Lavrov said. These issues "concern key aspects of European, international security, strategic stability," he added.
At a meeting with Putin later on Tuesday, de Hoop Scheffer also stressed the importance of dialogue between Russia and NATO, saying there was "no alternative for a good, healthy Russia-NATO relationship."
Putin said there had been major progress in Russia-NATO relations.
"We have moved from a period of confrontation to cooperation with the organisation. Naturally, this is big, multifaceted work, and it cannot happen without problems," he said.
The NATO chief said he discussed the CFE treaty "at length" with Putin, as well as the question of Russia's opposition to Western moves in the United Nations to pass a resolution that would give Kosovo near full independence.
"My plea for President Putin was please make sure sooner rather than later that there will be a Security Council resolution deciding on the future status of Kosovo," de Hoop Scheffer said.
On the CFE treaty, he said the pact was "a cornerstone of European security" and a possible Russian pull-out "would be a very negative development and I would very much deplore that."
Putin earlier threatened that Russia would cease abiding by the Cold War-era treaty, which imposes limits on military deployment, in retaliation against US plans to deploy missiles and a radar in Central Europe.
Washington says the missile defence system would guard against potential Iranian or North Korean attacks on Europe, while Moscow insists that Russia is the real target.
Russia is also furious at NATO's expansion into former Soviet territory, with Georgia and Ukraine being the latest former Soviet republics to seek membership.
De Hoop Scheffer was in Moscow on the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Russia-NATO Council, which sought to build cooperation at a time when the military alliance was looking to expand into eastern Europe.
The government-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily said de Hoop Scheffer would be looking to get a feel for Russia's position on the disputed security issues ahead of crucial talks between Putin and Bush next week.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta commented that communication between NATO and Russia had broken down: "The truth of the matter is that dialogue has recently come to resemble two monologues."
earlier related report
Putin earlier threatened that Russia would cease abiding by the treaty, which imposes limits on military deployment, in retaliation against US plans to deploy missiles and a radar in Central Europe.
"I have restated the position of the allies, that this treaty is a cornerstone and should remain a cornerstone of European security," de Hoop Scheffer said.
If Russia were to cease its participation in the treaty "it would be a very negative development and I would very much deplore that," he said.
But de Hoop Scheffer also urged greater moderation in NATO-Russia diplomacy, saying disputes between NATO and Russia were "no reason to use the megaphone."
earlier related report
Russia called for an emergency meeting in Vienna to try and speed up the ratification of the 1999 amended CFE treaty version by the United States and Europe. The original treaty was signed in 1990, a year before the collapse of the Soviet Union and three months ahead of the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. Since then, all of its former members joined NATO, and so did the former Soviet Baltic republics, which has totally changed the balance of forces. Even an amended CFE treaty will now have to be re-amended after ratification. The West now has three times as much heavy military equipment -- aircraft, tanks and artillery mounts -- as Russia. President Vladimir Putin said in his recent state of the nation address that Russia could declare a moratorium on observing the CFE treaty -- that is, suspend its obligations under the treaty, which is in fact observed by Russia alone.
None of the Western countries agrees to ratify the treaty adapted in 1999 unless Russian forces pull out of the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova. Russia retorts that its pullout from Georgia and Transdnestr, a self-proclaimed republic in Moldova, has nothing to do with the CFE treaty, while Moscow's statements at the Istanbul conference were voluntary and non-binding.
In any case, Russia will remove all of its military bases from Georgia in 2008, and even NATO members acknowledge progress on the issue. Daniel Fried, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs who headed the U.S. delegation at the Vienna conference, said that Russia had greatly progressed in fulfilling the so-called Istanbul commitments on Georgia. Still, the Transdnestr situation remains a major stumbling block. The diplomat called for a "creative" solution, obviously referring to Russia's position: Moscow insists its troops are on a lawful peacekeeping mission in Transdnestr.
Anatoly Antonov, the head of the Russian delegation, presented Russia's "roadmap plan" to save the CFE treaty in his opening remarks at the Vienna meeting. The first item on the plan called for the Baltic States to join the treaty, followed by a requirement to limit the permitted numbers of weapons and military equipment for NATO in order to square the advantage it received after expanding to Eastern European nations. Russia also proposed to define the term "substantial conventional forces" and to "exercise restraint" in their buildup until they are defined. This means that the United States will have to abandon its plan to deploy 5,000 troops to Romania and Bulgaria.
In addition, Moscow insists on putting into effect the CFE treaty adaptation agreement no later than July 1, 2008, and on the development of conditions for admitting new signatories.
Russia also demanded that the West lift the so-called flank limitations on Russia's territory. If a solution is not found within one year, Russia may revise the decision on the moratorium. It means that we will neither admit international inspections, nor send our own expert groups; we will stop disclosing information, as we are doing now; and we will no longer be bound by any quantitative limitations, the Russian Foreign Ministry says.
Even though criticized by a number of national and foreign media, Moscow did show willingness to find a creative solution to the Transdnestr situation. Mikhail Ulyanov, deputy head of the Russian delegation, said Russia would consider a compromise over Moldova, such as an international peacekeeping force to replace Russian troops in Transdnestr, albeit as a separate issue from the Vienna conference focus.
Western delegates to the Vienna conference said the best that could be hoped for was an agreement to continue consultations after these talks end on Friday and reconvene the conference at some time in the future.
That Washington, too, made some concessions is certainly encouraging. It agreed to start discussing all of Moscow's security concerns in September, at the level of foreign and defense ministers. Four working groups are to be set up on Russia's initiative: missile defense; the CFE treaty; replacement of nuclear warheads on Trident strategic ballistic missiles; and START-I. Fried spoke about it in early May, just as Democrat Brad Sherman, chair of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, said it was more important for the United States to cooperate with Russia on Iran than to quarrel over missile defense.
It looks like the future of the CFE treaty will be decided at the September talks. The fewer participants, the easier it will be to reach agreement.
What Moscow wants is to alter the model of interaction outlined in the 1990s, when Western nations cooperated with it in return for its unilateral concessions. Putin's statement on the CFE treaty moratorium should be interpreted in this context. It was not an ultimatum, but an invitation to dialogue.
(Nikolai Khorunzhy is an independent Russian military expert writing for the RIA Novosti news agency. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)
Source: Agence France-Presse
Source: RIA Novosti
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The United States is ready to work together with Russia on a new nuclear security regime to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) expiring in 2009, an assistant secretary of state said Thursday. Addressing a Senate session on strategic aspects of Russian-American relations, Daniel Fried said Washington favored transparency and predictability, and added that the sides were discussing the issue.
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