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US On Charm Offensive To Avoid Clash With Russia

File photo of Presidents Putin and Bush on the red carpet during more cordial times.

Russia Defense Ministry To Keep Upgrading Armed Forces
Moscow, Russia (RIA) Feb 26 - Russia's Defense Ministry will keep upgrading the Armed Forces, the newly appointed Russian defense minister said Friday. "I would like to assure you that the course the Defense Ministry has been following for the past six years will remain unchanged in the future as well," Anatoly Serdyukov said on national television. "Our aim is a deep comprehensive modernization of the Armed Forces, making them look fully in line with the 21st century demands," he said.

On February 15, President Vladimir Putin appointed Serdyukov, 45, who headed the Federal Tax Service for the last three years, as new defense minister, replacing Sergei Ivanov. Serdyukov said last Sunday that priority tasks facing Russia's Armed Forces will remain unchanged. "First of all, this applies to the social sphere - the provision of servicemen with housing, combat training, modernization of the Armed Forces, the increase of the number of troops serving on contract and the transition to a 12-month draft from January 1, 2008," Serdyukov said then.

by Sylvie Lanteaume
Washington (AFP) Feb 23, 2007
The United States has launched a diplomatic charm offensive to mollify Russia over Washington's plans to expand its missile defense system into Poland and the Czech Republic. Washington announced in January it had begun negotiations to install 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar site in the Czech Republic.

US officials are trying to convince Moscow -- an important ally on several key global issues -- that the system is not aimed at them but rather at Iran, North Korea and states and groups in the Middle East that are seeking weapons of mass destruction.

The government says the additional defense is needed in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington.

"These missile systems are for purposes having to do with post-9/11 threats," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday in Berlin, after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, dispatched to Moscow to calm the controversy, stressed that the defense shield was not designed to counter Russian weapons.

"It is directed to certain countries that are developing both ballistic missiles and have shown a desire to pursue nuclear weapons ... That's primarily North Korea and Iran," Hadley told reporters Thursday after meeting his Russian opposite number, Igor Ivanov.

"It is a system of limited capability and it poses no threat to the Russian strategic deterrent," Hadley said.

In Washington, Air Force Lieutenant General Henry Obering, who heads the Missile Defense Agency, also tried to allay Russian fears. "We do not have any further plan at this point to expand it to additional nations over there," he told reporters Thursday.

On Wednesday Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin met in Washington with top US diplomats "for a regular round of consultations on the situation in and respective policies toward Central Asia, the Caucasus and Eastern Europe," the State Department said in a statement.

"They discussed the possibilities of cooperation between both the United States and Russia in seeking solutions to regional problems of concern and the interests of both states," the statement added.

The diplomatic turbulence developed after a Russian general on Monday warned that Russia could aim missiles at neighbors Poland and the Czech Republic if they allow components of the US missile shield on their soil.

General Nikolai Solovtsov, head of Russia's strategic missile force, said that Russia could easily restart production of medium-range missiles if the decision were taken to withdraw from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), signed by Moscow and Washington in 1987.

"I think that was an extremely unfortunate comment," Rice said.

The fracas has chilled relations between Moscow and Washington at a moment the United States needs Russia's cooperation on important issues such as nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.

The general's comments followed tough US criticism by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said in Munich on February 10 that Washington had disastrously "overstepped" its borders and "imposed itself on other states."

Despite the US charm offensive, the United States has made it clear it would continue to openly criticize the Kremlin when it deemed it necessary.

In a strongly worded speech Wednesday night in Washington, Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, referred to Putin's "extraordinary speech," saying it was necessary to "redefine" and rebalance the relationship with Russia.

On the battlefront against terrorism and nuclear proliferation, "Russia is one of our strongest partners worldwide," Burns said.

But Washington should be able to criticize the "overbearing attitude" of Russia with regard to Georgia, Moldavia and the Baltic states, as well as the human rights situation in the country, he added.

We need "to thank the Russian Federation when we were able to achieve things together, whether it's on counterterrorism or counterproliferation, but to be equally frank and when there are challenges in our cooperation," he said.

"We face those challenges and we disagree with the Russians publicly when they do things that are profoundly not in our interest and against the interests of our friends in Europe."

Source: Agence France-Presse

Source: RIA Novosti

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China Military Build-Up Out Of Keeping With Peaceful Aim
Sydney (AFP) Feb 22, 2007
China's rapid military build-up and anti-satellite test last month are out of keeping with its stated aim of becoming a peaceful world power, US Vice President Dick Cheney warned Friday. Cheney, speaking in Australia, praised Beijing's role in helping seal a crucial nuclear deal with North Korea this month, but warned of Beijing flexing its military muscle.







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