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Russia seeks restrictions on NATO military contingents - paper

RIA Novosti

11:38 27/10/2010 MOSCOW, October 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia wants NATO to impose a ban on the deployment of "substantive combatant forces" on the territories of the alliance's new member states, a Russian business daily said on Wednesday.

Kommersant said that the request was laid out in a draft cooperation deal that Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov handed over to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in December 2009. The deal, which is still under discussion, was not made public, under a mutual agreement.

"We want the level of predictability in military activity on the territories of the countries recently admitted to NATO to be higher than it is now," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the paper.

The new member states in question are the eight former Warsaw Pact countries that were admitted to NATO in 1999 and 2004.

"After the fall of the Soviet Union and the disestablishment of the Warsaw Pact, they [the new members of the alliance] joined the military bloc, which retained all the functions it had when the Soviet Union still existed," Ryabkov said.

"Moreover, NATO armed forces are being upgraded, which means that the situation to the west of us has changed. If there is no military threat, let us create specific military guarantees," Ryabkov said.

Russia has retained staunch opposition to NATO plans to deploy anti-missile defense systems in the territories of a number of the new member states, claiming that their positioning close to Russia's borders would be a security threat.

A source from NATO headquarters, who confirmed the existence of the treaty, said the main obstacle to its conclusion was that the term "substantive combat forces" has never been clearly defined.

While Russia considers the NATO forces deployed on a rotational base in Bulgaria and Romania substantial, for example, Washington does not.

Moscow's proposed agreement seeks to create a legal definition of the term.

The treaty will be discussed during Rasmussen's planned visit to Russia on November 5 after the NATO summit in Lisbon, the paper said.

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