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American Forces Press Service

U.S., Russian Leaders Agree to Meet Again

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

MOSCOW, Oct. 12, 2007 – U.S. and Russian foreign affairs and defense leaders made no major breakthroughs during what they’re calling their first “two-plus-two” talks on strategic security, but they agreed to meet again in Washington in six months.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met here today with Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Anatoliy Eduardovich Serdyukov to discuss missile defense and other security issues.

Russian leaders oppose the U.S. plan to base radar and long-range ballistic missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic. At a meeting earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Rice and Gates “that in the process of such complex and multifaceted talks you will not be forcing forward your relations with the Eastern European countries.”

Putin also threatened to abandon a key nuclear missile treaty. He said the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty limiting Russian and U.S. short- and medium-range missiles was outmoded because other countries were acquiring such weapons.

"If we are unable to make such a goal of making this treaty universal, then it will be difficult for us to keep within the framework of such a treaty, especially when other countries do have such weapons systems," Putin said.

The two top diplomats and two defense leaders then met for two sessions of talks, followed by a short news conference in which Rice told U.S. and Russian reporters that the “constructive” talks covered a full range of issues on the political, military and strategic agenda with Russia.

Rice said the “two-plus-two” format was useful and that U.S. officials would put together a strategic framework on all of the various strategic policy issues that both parties can review and hopefully finalize at the next meeting in Washington.

The United States and Russia agree on countering global nuclear terror and the safe use of civilian nuclear power, Rice said. “These are elements the presidents have had very forward-leaning initiatives on, and we want to make sure they are fully implemented,” she said.

Other issues, such as missile defense and how to push forward on limiting deployed strategic warheads, remain to be agreed upon. But, she said, both parties have agreed their experts should work “very urgently” on resolving diverging views.

On the issue of positioning missile defense assets in Poland and the Czech Republic, Rice said the United States will work to address Russian concerns about the nature of the system and a diverging view of the missile threat, and to reassure the Russians that the system will not undermine the Russian deterrent. “We believe that we can address those concerns, and we are prepared to do it,” Rice said.

“The United States did come with some new ideas that we hope are responsive to some of the concerns that Russia has had,” she said. “But obviously our experts will need to work through some of these concepts so that we can make progress on these very important issues. Some of the ideas on transparency and joint monitoring, we would hope we could be taken up very soon; others are still to be worked.”

Rice pointed out that the “adversarial” relationship between the United States and Russia is a thing of the past, and that today, while there may be differences from time to time, “there is a spirit of constructive work.”

Gates told reporters the talks “reflected the complex, multifaceted relationship Russia and the United States have -- a relationship with many common security interests.”

“We have a robust strategic agenda, and many of these topics were discussed during today’s meetings,” he said. “We put some new ideas on the table in several areas.”

Gates said U.S. officials proposed having individuals from both sides at the missile defense sites to provide complete transparency. “Some of the proposals affected transparency and sharing information,” he said.

Gates emphasized that the missile defense system being proposed is not directed at Russia. “It would have no impact on Russia’s strategic deterrent,” he said.

“I would just add that we also addressed the possible concern on the Russian side, that while the sites in the present design form pose no threat to Russia or its deterrent, the concern that in some future date years from now they might do so and our willingness to provide assurances and reassurances in that respect,” he said.

Gates said U.S. officials “remain eager to be full and open partners with Russia in missile defense,” he said. “We discussed a range of proposals we hope Moscow will accept. If we succeed in working together, (it) will mark a major strategic shift.”

U.S. officials are concerned about Russia’s stated intention to suspend its participation in the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty and hope the differences can be resolved.

Lavrov opened the news conference on a positive note, remarking that the meeting reaffirmed that all participants “realize their responsibility for world security and a strategic partnership.”

He also said the Russians agreed to make the two-plus-two format permanent and to meet again in Washington in six months to follow up on their work on “practical implementation of initiatives put forward by the two countries jointly and implemented jointly in the area of strategic stability.”

He said this includes the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, strengthening of cooperative regimes, countering nuclear terrorism, the development of cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and the “universalization” of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War-era treaty limiting Russian and U.S. short- and medium-range missiles.

The treaty limits the Russian Federation and the United States in their ability to have appropriate military systems, Lavrov said. “Since the threat of missile proliferation is growing, we agreed that we need to invite all countries without an exclusion to engage in this regime.”

Lavrov noted that the two parties also could use the two-plus-two meetings to discuss issues on which their views diverge, and one of these issues is missile defense. He said Russian experts will examine proposals put forward today by the Americans aimed at finding common ground.

Russian officials’ views “diverge about the assessment of the character of the missile proliferation threat,” Lavrov said, and experts will focus and collaborate on a joint understanding of the threat.

“If it has to do with the protection of Europe and the United States, let’s realistically look at who can threaten them,” Lavrov stressed. “If we succeed in hammering out these criteria, it may become clear that there is no need in this third positioning region.”

He also called on the Americans to freeze their plans to deploy missile defense assets in Europe while U.S. and Russian experts work on resolving the two nations’ differences.

Lavrov said the two parties agreed to continue work on the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. This summer, the Russians put forth proposals on how to save the treaty and keep it viable, he said. Today, the Americans made their proposals, which he said “is a step in the right direction, but this step is insufficient.”

The Russian minister said the two nations must work out an arrangement following the end of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. He added that Russian officials realize the relevance of the treaty and the importance of a follow-on treaty.

Lavrov called for a “holistic approach” to dealing with all matters of strategic stability that are on the agenda of Russian-American relations.

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