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NATO seeks closer Russian ties

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has arrived in Moscow after taking part in an International Security Conference in St. Petersburg as part of his two-day visit to Russia.

Russia and NATO disagree on a number of issues, including U.S plans for a missile shield in Eastern Europe, NATO's expansion to the east and some new Alliance members' refusal to sign the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.

After meeting de Hoop Scheffer, Russia's Federation Council Speaker Sergey Mironov said such meetings are an important part of open and frank dialogue.

“We were able to openly discuss the problems between NATO and Russia. As a Member of Parliament, I voiced the concerns of the Russian people that include NATO's expansion to the East and the U.S. plans for an anti-missile defence system in Europe. These issues won't be solved without discussion and frank dialogue in which we not only listen to each other but hear each other as well,” the Russian parliamentarian said.

Secretary-General de Hoop Scheffer suggested Russian experts travel to Poland to examine the missiles, and tried to allay Russia's concerns over NATO expansion.    
“I think at a certain stage we'll see further enlargement. With Georgia we have a relationship we call 'intensified dialogue', so we are not yet at the point of discussing membership. After all – in that I agree with Chairman Mironov – it is the ordinary people who finally decide what they want, be it in the Western Balkans – because in the Western Balkans there are also nations who aspire to NATO membership – be it in Georgia, be it in Ukraine. I was a Member of Parliament for sixteen years in my home nation so I understand exactly what Chairman Mironov means when he speaks about ordinary people,” he said.

NATO also urged Russia not to veto a resolution on the future of Kosovo and expressed support for Martti Ahtisaari’s plan for de facto independence under international supervision.

Russia says it is necessary to take into account the interests of Serbia and the consequences that might follow Kosovo’s independence, adding that adoption of the UN resolution will most likely be blocked.

Both sides say they are not enemies, but remain wary.
“On the one hand of course we cannot say that NATO is Russia’s enemy, but at the same time NATO is perceived as Russia’s potential enemy. I don’t think that NATO’s enlargement, particularly involving Ukraine, would be acceptable for Moscow, and I believe Moscow would do everything possible to prevent this,” said Aleksandr Pikayev, an expert from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations.