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Moscow Times
December 16, 2009
Kremlin to Press NATO Chief on Security Pact
By Nikolaus von Twickel

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will hold talks with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in what is seen as a key step toward rebuilding the alliance’s ties with Moscow after the chill that followed last year’s war in Georgia.

A potentially thorny issue will be Medvedev’s initiative for a broader European-Atlantic security treaty, which is seen by many Western governments as an attempt to restore Moscow’s influence by undermining NATO.

The Kremlin said in a statement Tuesday that it would push to discuss the treaty with Rasmussen, but a senior NATO official said the issue would be better dealt with by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or the OSCE.

“We are not dogmatic and do not have taboos, but with all due respect we think that the OSCE is the right place for this,” the official said, requesting anonymity in line with NATO policy.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov presented a draft treaty at the NATO-Russia Council meeting on Dec. 4 in Brussels, the first meeting of the body after a yearlong freeze following the Georgia war. But in a sign that the path to a strategic partnership is still rocky, Lavrov gave Rasmussen a working paper at the meeting that suggests that NATO should refrain from stationing substantial troops or arms in its new member states in Eastern Europe.

The hitherto unpublished paper, a copy of which was obtained by The Moscow Times, proposes that both sides agree not to station military infrastructure in another European country but defines NATO in its membership of May 1997, effectively banning the transfer of infrastructure from existing members to former Warsaw Pact or Soviet members, which all joined later. The proposal is likely to anger members like Poland and the Baltic states, which see NATO as protection against Russia.

Moscow has been irked by NATO’s eastward expansion into territories that it sees as its traditional sphere of influence. NATO’s proposed inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine has been cited as a prime factor behind the war over Georgia’s rebel region of South Ossetia.

Dmitry Rogozin, Moscow’s permanent representative to NATO, confirmed the existence of the proposal but refused to comment on its contents. “This is just a working paper not ready for publication,” he told The Moscow Times on Tuesday.

But both Rogozin and the NATO official were adamant that improving ties was at the top of the agenda.

“This is a very important visit because the [NATO-Russia] relationship requires a lot of political attention,” the NATO official said.

He noted that Rasmussen himself has called the partnership with Russia a priority. “And he means that because it will require a lot of work,” he said.

Key areas of cooperation have been the war on terror and NATO’s campaign in Afghanistan, where Moscow says it shares Western concerns about Islamist militancy and narcotics and has allowed the transit of NATO supplies over Russian soil.

Rasmussen told reporters in Copenhagen on Tuesday that he would seek more help from Russia on Afghanistan, including equipment and trainers for Afghan forces, Reuters reported.

Rogozin said he was pinning his hopes on a planned joint review of security threats.

He said he would discuss the country’s new military doctrine with the members of a NATO expert group developing the alliance’s next strategy. The long-awaited military doctrine is expected to be presented to Medvedev this month.

Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev, who oversees its formulation, caused some consternation in October when he said in an interview that the doctrine would also assert the country’s right for a preventative nuclear strike in local wars.

Rasmussen is meeting with Patrushev on Thursday, the Kremlin said.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the prime minister would discuss “all aspects of the country’s cooperation with NATO.” He stressed that the meeting would take place after talks with Medvedev in the Kremlin and that the sole reason for it was that Rasmussen had asked for it. “The prime minister received a request and decided to meet the secretary-general,” he said.

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