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Lavrov Warns NATO Against Compromising Russia's Security

26 June 2007

Moscow is warning NATO not to adopt policies that increase European security at the expense of Russia. Senior Russian officials, however, say their country can cooperate with the Western alliance in areas of mutual concern such as international terrorism and drug trafficking. VOA correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports from the Russian capital.

In a meeting in Moscow Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the Western alliance cannot do without Russia and Russia cannot do without NATO. The Russian leader echoed those remarks.

President Putin says continuous dialogue will help Russia and NATO solve problems for the sake of international security and peace.

Mr. Putin added that Russia and NATO cooperate on many levels and that difficulties are to be expected.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hinted at the difficulties when he spoke at a meeting Tuesday of the Russia-NATO Council in Moscow.

Lavrov said those issues relate to European and international security. He noted that both sides need to approach these matters carefully, and, as he put it, avoid steps that increase someone's security at the expense of others.

Russia is concerned about a U.S. plan to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. American officials say the system would guard against a possible missile attack from Iran. The Kremlin, however, says the missiles would threaten Russian security.

NATO and Russia also disagree about Kosovo, Serbia's predominately ethnic Albanian province that is seeking independence. NATO would grant Kosovo what is being called supervised independence, but Moscow, a close ally of Serbia, is threatening to veto the plan in the United Nations Security Council.

In addition, Russia is concerned about possible NATO expansion into the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine.

However, a new public opinion survey indicates Ukraine is not likely to join NATO anytime soon. The poll released on Tuesday by the Razumkov Center in Kyiv indicates that 40 percent of Ukrainians oppose NATO membership, and only nine percent fully support the idea.

Despite their differences, Foreign Minister Lavrov said Russian-NATO cooperation is important in several areas.

Lavrov says the two sides together can fight against international terrorism, drug trafficking, and man made ecological disasters.

NATO's de Hoop Scheffer said the organization's relations with Moscow must develop in two key areas, investment and interaction.

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