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BBC Monitoring
Russian defence minister on Iraq, Chechnya, NATO expansion
Source: Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 1905 gmt 21 Jan 03

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov has conceded that Russia had come
under pressure from the US to abandon nuclear cooperation with Iran, but
had not yielded. Interviewed by Akram Khuzam on Al-Jazeera TV, he said that
Russia would continue cooperating with Iran and that two new nuclear
reactors would be built. Touching on Chechnya, he said that Western reports
of cleansing operations were merely a figment of the imagination and these
operations have not been carried out for at least a year. On NATO he said
that Russia did not view the organization as an enemy but this did mean
that there were no specific dangers in the expansion of the Alliance.
Russia, he added, had no intention of joining this organization. The
following is an excerpt from the interview:

Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel Television in Arabic, an independent
television financed by the Qatari Government, at 1905 GMT on 21 January
carries its recorded "Today's Encounter" discussion programme presented by
Akram Khuzam in Moscow; date not given. This episode's guest is Russian
Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov.

[Khuzam] Your Excellency, the minister. The whole world is currently
preoccupied with the Iraq issue and military and political officials are
wondering, will war break out or not? What is your opinion?

[Ivanov] I am pleased to be given the opportunity before this large number
of viewers to give an interview to this well-known television station,
which is developing dynamically. This is my first opportunity and therefore
I will begin by saying: May peace be upon you. If we talk about Iraq, then
this is of course a complicated issue. You might perhaps think, as the
viewers will know, that not everything here depends on Russia. The Russian
position was adopted a long time ago and I can safely say that it has
crystallized and I think that this position is adopted on a sound basis and
is easy to explain.

Danger of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is real

If we talk in general about the danger of the proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction, this danger undoubtedly does exist in our current stage.
This danger is as much a concern to Russia as it is to the United States
and a number of other countries, including, in my opinion, the Near East
and Middle East countries and the Arab World. It is a serious issue that
could undermine the entire strategic stability and also undermine the
ability to predict the shape of the contemporary world. The attempts to
possess such weapons do exist and in my capacity as defence minister I say
in a very responsible manner that we take note of such attempts. But I am
saying this in general terms and theoretically speaking and as a background
to this subject...

We therefore believe and Russia believes that unilateral measures,
especially military measures, should not be taken against Iraq under the
current circumstances and the reality of today. I am not afraid to say that
the majority of countries in the world share this position and we are not
alone in this. We are still convinced that the inspectors must submit a
preliminary report, as it has become clear now, on the 27th of this month.
We support the idea of the continued work of the inspectors in Iraq, if

[Khuzam]While you say that this war should not be launched and that the
Security Council must adopt a special resolution, the United States and
Britain talk about the possibility of launching a war against Iraq. Many
are asking about what Russia would do if the war broke out.

[Ivanov] I think that many countries in the world and also Russia would
express their negative position towards these operations. If we assume in
theory that a wrong and [word indistinct] step were going to be taken,
Russia would of course follow developments in the situation. Russia would
also not merely defend its national interests, especially its economic
interests, but would do its utmost in coordination with all the countries
that share our position to alleviate the consequences of war.

[Khuzam] Let us move on to Iran. We notice that the level of military
cooperation between Russia and Iran has recently reduced somewhat. Is this
due to pressure by the United States or the pro-Israeli lobby here in
Moscow? What is your opinion?

Cooperation between Iran and Russia continues

[Ivanov] This has not happened in the case of Iran but there were attempts
at exerting pressure, yes. This is obvious but I do not wish to go into
detail because many know about that and I have talked about it many times.
Iran is an independent and sovereign country and is not subjected to any
sanctions and in the meantime Iran is committed to all international
treaties and controls. For example, Iran is a member of the IAEA and all
the other treaties. Since the beginning of 2000, Russia abandoned all the
restrictions to which it had been voluntarily committed in the past in the
field of military and technological cooperation with Iran. This is except
for those commitments which we pledged to honour and which Iran
deliberately kept in place within the framework of international obligations.

Talks are taking place and I can frankly tell you that all the requests
that the Iranian side submits for supplying it with weapons are nothing
more than defensive weapon systems. We do not feel that we are under any
restrictions here and everything now depends on certain commercial talks
because Russia, contrary to the Soviet era, conducts all its foreign trade
activities principally on the basis of its trade interests. We do not
export arms for free or on credit as we used to do in the past with the aim
of supporting our political missions."

[Khuzam] The talk about cooperation with Iran is limited to cooperation in
the nuclear field. It is said that as a result of pressure from Israel and
the United States, Russia has reduced this cooperation, given that I know
that there are American and German companies working there specifically in
this field.

[Ivanov]Yes, I know that and it is true and this also happens with Iraq and
not only with Iran. Permit me to slightly disagree with you. There has been
no retreat or apprehension or reduction in our completely legal cooperation
with Iran in the field of nuclear energy. When we signed those contracts,
we came under some political pressures from the United States. I wish to
emphasize that this happened in the past but I would like to point out that
we did not give in to that pressure. Two nuclear reactors will be
established. One of these reactors will be inaugurated as soon as the
equipment is installed and this means, in practice, it is in the phase of
no return. Rest assured that no changes would take place after that. When
we are told, in an attempt to exert pressure upon us, why are you building
nuclear reactors in Iran since those [Iranians] have a great deal of oil
and gas? I reply to them by saying: Listen, we did not ask you when you
held talks to build 20 nuclear reactors in Iran. This is therefore an
operation of double standards.

[Khuzam] Your Excellency, the minister. The issue of Chechnya is the main
focus of world media attention. Several Russian defence ministers promised
that the issue would be quickly resolved and even President Putin also
promised that when he came to office, but no-one can see light at the end
of the tunnel. The operations are continuing and the violation of human
rights by the federal forces is also continuing in Chechnya. What is the
way out in your opinion?

Settlement process in Chechnya will take some time

[Ivanov] I would like you to understand that the settlement process in
Chechnya will take some time and this is very understandable. There are
several aspects to this settlement. If we talk about the military aspect,
the main task, which is principally at hand, lies in cutting the channels
of the supply of money to the terrorists, including the international
terrorists, in Chechnya. All the terrorist operations that are carried out
inside Chechnya are paid for in advance. Every action that the fighters or
terrorists carry out has a price and we have documents that prove this and
I presented them to the media on several occasions.

Sums of money amounting to millions are transferred to Chechnya from abroad
and regrettably the largest part of this money comes from the Arab World
countries and I do not understand the secret behind this. A number of
countries from this region have traditionally good relations with Russia
and the leaders and politicians of these countries announce their
endeavours to promote these relations with Russia in its capacity as the
heir to the former Soviet Union. At the same time and wittingly or
unwittingly, enormous amounts of money are collected in these countries and
sent to Chechnya. International terrorists are hiding in the UAE and Saudi
Arabia and Turkey. Excuse me, this is a policy of double standards. But I
have told you about the first task. The second task is of course drying out
the sources of weapons and also money from inside Russian territory because
the world of crime also finances terrorism. It is not only terrorist
attacks that take place in Chechnya. There are also attacks by bandits who
kidnap citizens in order to demand ransoms that would afterward be
transferred to finance the fighters."

Cleansing operations in Chechnya - a figment of the imagination

The third task, which is perhaps the most important, is the political
settlement process... As regard the cleansing operations that the West
talks about a great deal, these are merely a figment of the imagination and
these operations have not been carried out for at least a year. Yes, the
criminals sometimes hide in residential areas and yes, they have
accomplices there who help them hide and make contacts. In this case, the
federal forces and not only the army because there is the Ministry of
Interior and the federal security commission, carry out specific
operations. For example, they go to a house because they know there are
criminals inside it and if they come under fire from that house, the
military personnel and I mean here the forces in general return fire. This
happens in any civilized country and we will also respond in this way
afterward. As for crimes, crimes and violations do actually take place and
there are cases of crimes committed by military personnel. At the moment,
there are 46 criminal cases against military personnel who committed one
kind of crime or another, including murder. Courts have passed sentences in
11 murder cases and these sentences have taken their legal course. At the
same time, I cannot say that the crimes that are committed by military
personnel are of a collective nature because I do not have any proof or facts.

[Khuzam] Allow me to move on to the issue of NATO. Everyone knows that it
has become close to your borders. I personally know that NATO, according to
what is written in your military ideology, is regarded as a major threat to
Russia. At the same time, we see that several politicians and at the
highest levels do not give any significance to NATO as a danger as is the
case in that military ideology. They argue that there is no need to
escalate the climate with NATO and that there should be cooperation with
it. Will you write down in your new ideology that it is a partner and does
not pose a threat to Russia's security?

NATO not an enemy, but there are dangers in its expansion

[Ivanov] No, the things you have mentioned will not be written down in the
military ideology. But at the same time, the old ideology, which is not
exactly old because it was endorsed when I was working in the National
Security Council in 2000, did not stipulate that. It did not stipulate that
Russia has this or that enemy or mention names, as was the case during the
days of the Soviet Union. In general, the theory of the axis of evil is
unacceptable to us and we categorically reject that although we, as is the
case with the United States, have serious questions and causes of concern
with regard to some countries. But I will not talk about that because your
question was about NATO. We do not describe NATO as an enemy but that does
not mean we do not see specific dangers in the expansion of the Alliance.
President Putin previously talked about this on several occasions and
described the expansion process as a mistake.

It seems to me that NATO has started to realize today that the world has
changed. Official statements are of course made to the effect that Russia
is not an enemy of NATO but NATO remains until now essentially a military
organization. Russia does not have any [?intention] to join this
organization and the truth has to be said that NATO for its part does not
plan to invite Russia to join this military organization. On the basis of
what I have said and these realistic calculations, I signed the document of
the so-called Russia-NATO council, which is known to everyone as the
20-countries agreement. It was written that NATO and Russia essentially
cooperate in the field of the new threats and challenges that do not
infringe on the essence of the military organization, makeup, or planning
of both sides. What will happen later? We say that only time will tell
because the mechanism of the 20-countries agreement itself has only been in
force less than a year. On the other hand, let us recall in an objective
manner what has happened to NATO and inside NATO after the 11 September
incidents. It is not a secret that Russia was able to provide a greater
deal of support to the international coalition, and not only to the United
States, in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan and there is a
principled difference between that and the support that all of NATO extended."

[Khuzam] Your Excellency, the minister. Since we are talking about
cooperation with the United States, the Americans recently invited you to
cooperate in the field of the missile defence shield. You also recently
announced your intention to build a new system causing a major stir and
raising the question about where would Russia obtain the money to
accomplish such a project. It has also been asked whether you will actually
cooperate with the United States, which has defined the countries of the
axis of evil comprising countries that are your friends."

US missile shield - not a threat to Russian security

[Ivanov] As regard the issue of the anti-missile defence system, we
described the United States' withdrawal from the anti-missile defence
treaty last year, which was signed in 1972, as a mistake and we condemned
that move. But we have to understand that we live in a realistic world and
ultimately the treaty itself includes a clause that stipulates the right of
any side to withdraw from it. In general, the treaty contains such a
paragraph that permits withdrawal for some reason... To confront these
threats, there is in our opinion the nonstrategic antimissile defence
system, that is the antimissile defence system in the theatre of military
operations, which is regarded to a great extent a solution to the problem.
Many countries in the world agree with us that there is no need to
establish a global antimissile defence system because the cost of such a
project is unknown and also whether this is technologically possible to
achieve. The last thing I want to say is that we do not consider the US
plans to establish their own system as a threat to our security because we
have several methods to penetrate the antimissile defence system. In
general, this issue does not worry us very much.
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