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Russian pundits say signing of new START treaty in 2009 unlikely

Moscow, 5 March: Signing a new treaty between the USA and Russia instead of expiring (in December 2009) the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1) is impossible this year, and there is no need to strive for this, Sergey Karaganov, chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, has said.

"That is absolutely unreal, and there is even no need in striving for this. For the beginning, it is necessary to agree on the rules of transparency," Karaganov told Interfax on Thursday (5 March).

"It is not possible to agree on particular deep reductions in question beyond the context of signing a new treaty on collective security in Europe and, mainly, the ultimate end of Cold War, which had not been finished, because the NATO and the expansion of this military bloc has remained," Karaganov said.

He also thinks that the deployment of elements of the US air defence in Poland and Czech Republic is directed at the deterioration of relations between Russia and the EU. "That is an attempt to split Europe and to widen the split between the EU and Russia. Americans do not need this system, if they do not want to simply split Europe," Karaganov said.

In connection with the meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton due in Geneva on Friday, Karaganov said it would not be a meeting simply for an initial overture. "That is absolutely clear that one cannot waste time, and there will be some specific conversations on cooperation," he added.

According to Karaganov, some circumstances can impede "reloading" Russian-American relations. "First, there are attempts of many in the USA to turn this rapprochement into a propagandistic one, putting forward unrealistic proposals to show that America is not guilty at Russia's refusal of them. For example, in the question of very deep reductions of nuclear weapons, on which Russia, naturally, will not agree," he said.

He also said that "there is an unrealistic conception in the American political class, including democrats specializing in foreign policy." "It is considered that Russia in the situation of economic difficulties will make big concessions. I believe it is a conceptually major mistake," Karaganov said.

"Russia is sure that concessions are useless altogether, that they only lead to the toughening of claims, bring the water to mouth. In the situation of economic difficulties Russia's policy will most likely toughen. On the Russian side there is almost full distrust of the US policy, based on the experience of the last decades, and there are very strong anti-American sentiments in society, which are being heated by some media," Karaganov said. (Passage omitted).

For his part Aleksey Bogaturov, deputy director of the Institute of the Problems of International Security of the Russian Academy of Sciences, has said that signing a new treaty between the USA and Russia instead of the expiring START-1 is unlikely this year.

"Talks on big agreements of this kind, judging by the experience of last years, takes a very long time. I think that even a conceptual framework of possible agreements has not been agreed, this could be a subject of political dialogue, not a dialogue at the level of two ministers," he told Interfax. (Passage omitted).