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20 Apr, 2009 20:23

No strategic arms beyond borders – Medvedev

President Medvedev has said that the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) should exclude the deployment of strategic weapons outside national borders.

He was addressing the University of Helsinki during his first visit to Finland as a head of state.

Medvedev reminded the audience of his first meeting with US President Obama earlier in April, where the leaders agreed to immediately start work on a new START and to sign it by the end the year. It would replace the 1991 treaty which expires on December 5, 2009.

“It is very important to state that we can reduce strategic offensive weapons even to a greater extent than the Moscow Treaty of 2002 requires," Medvedev said.

"We believe that this treaty should also limit nuclear warhead delivery systems, meaning intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-based ballistic missiles and heavy bombers," the president said.

‘We need a new platform’

Next year will mark 35 years since Helsinki played host to an international conference aimed at easing tensions between the USSR and the West. As a result, the Helsinki Final Act was signed, outlining the main security principles applying since then.

In his address, the Russian leader gave his vision of a European security framework for the 21st century.

“Russia welcomes all countries and organizations working in Europe to agree on transparent, contemporary and – most importantly – efficient rules. We need a new platform. Neither NATO or the European Union, or the Commonwealth of Independent States could be one. The dialogue on the new agreement should start at the highest level,” he said.

A new security agreement for Europe has been high on the agenda for the two-day state visit. The proposal was first put forward by Medvedev in June last year. And after the August conflict in the Caucasus, when Georgia attacked South Ossetia, he stressed it again.

“We need to concentrate on building European security architecture. The idea of a big European Security Treaty has been formulated. This treaty should be based on the principles of international law, because no matter what alliances and treaties we have signed up to, this does not insure us against all kinds of problems,” Medvedev said.

Medvedev said Russia is already doing a lot in terms of contributing to international security.

“We made a decision to cut the number of military personnel in Russia’s westernmost region of Kaliningrad. Actually, we have cut troop numbers several times. We have now removed a significant amount of heavy weaponry. This is a good example of transparent and pragmatic attitude to security,” he said.

Medvedev added: “We hope our NATO partners would apply an equally restrained and reasonable approach and we would welcome a decision by NATO to cancel its plans to build up its presence in the Baltic states.”

'Nord Stream will bring energy security to Europe'

Not surprisingly, energy issues were also on the table today, during Medvedev’s meeting with his Finnish counterpart, Tarja Halonen.

The Russian president said the Nord Stream gas pipeline – which Moscow’s been pushing for – would be beneficial for Europe and energy security.

President Tarja Halonen promised that Helsinki would support the project if it is environmentally safe.

“We view this project from the environmental point of view. If it can be environmentally safe – then it’s a good initiative. We’ll keep looking into it and I hope we’ll find a solution soon,” she said.

Finland’s Foreign Minister, Alexander Stubb, said Finland may make its decision on Nord Stream as soon as June.

“We need all the pipelines – we need South Stream, we need North Stream and we need Nabucco. For Finland this is really not a political issue, it’s an economic and environmental issue. So we are ready for the ecological impact assessment and then we’ll make our decision, probably in June – and we’ll make it rationally, without undue emotion,” Stubb said.

Speaking at a media conference after the talks, Medvedev said that despite some differences in opinions over the Nord Stream pipeline, the project offered huge advantages. “We consider the project absolutely beneficial for certain European countries, and Europe as a whole, and we intend to promote it.”

“Why do we intend to promote it? We intend to do this because such projects create the basis for energy security in Europe and the great number of gas routes increases such security,” he said.

“Of course, we'll continue our work in this field by meeting all environmental demands. Finland itself will determine the framework for discussing this issue,” the Russian president added.

The pipeline would run from Russia to Europe under the Baltic Sea. It will bypass transit countries, most notably Ukraine, which was at the centre of a gas dispute in January 2009.

Earlier, Finland, Estonia and Sweden had all cited environmental concerns in the Baltic Sea as their main objection to the project.

New Energy Charter?

Medvedev said Russia will provide its partners with a basic document that will define the issues for international co-operation in energy – including the transportation of energy resources.

“Today I will distribute a document for our partners in the G8 and the G20 group of leading economies, to our partners in the CIS, to our close neighbors, such as Finland. A basic document that defines the issues of international co-operation in energy, including proposals on transit agreements will be forwarded,” President Medvedev said after the talks.

Presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich said the document may replace the Energy Charter Treaty and added that Moscow is ready to start negotiations on it this week.