Russian Defence Minister meets with US Defence Secretary in Spain

During NATO defence ministers' meeting in Seville, Spain, Russia's Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov has met with the new U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates for the first time since Mr Gates was approved by the U.S. Senate.

Sergey Ivanov flew in Seville to hold informal talks with his NATO counterparts. The Russian Defence Minister said security issues will be on the top of the agenda of the meeting.

“The development of relations with NATO is an important part of Russia’ s foreign policy. We work not only in areas of military and technical co-operation, but also on more broad issues, such as security in Europe and in the world. The NATO-Russia Council has existed for 5 years. We have a tradition of holding informal meetings during which we discuss various security issues. I’m planning to meet with the NATO Secretary General, defence ministers of Spain, Italy and the United States,” he commented.

The meeting between Sergey Ivanov and Robert Gates was held behind closed doors. Nevertheless, according to some journalists, the issue of the U.S. anti-missile system’s deploying in Eastern Europe was expected to be discussed as the top subject at the meeting.

In addition, the recent U.S. initiative to move its sea-based radar system from Hawaii to Aleutian Island chain of Alaska, closer to the North-Eastern borders of Russia, is also believed to have been touched on.

Robert Gates claimed in his budget statement to the U.S. Senate that what he described as Russia's “uncertain path” was compounded by its re-armament and military modernisation. Moreover, he recently said that he put Russia and China into the framework of the countries which are unfriendly to the USA, and, therefore, the USA must watch Russia’s activities. This sort of statement reminded journalists the rhetoric usual for the Cold War period. So, now at their meeting the two sides have to work out problems survived from those times.

However, apart from these problems, Russia and the USA have actually a lot in common nowadays. Today’s Russia is actively participating in the work on the issues concerning Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo.

As for the latter, Russia insists that the problem of Kosovo’s independence should be discussed between the breakaway region and Serbia, as the precedent of Kosovo getting independence might cause the chain reaction among all the other breakaway republics which also want to follow the lead of Kosovo.

Concerning Afghanistan, Russia’s proposal addressed to the USA and other NATO members is to work together on the common problems of terrorism and drugs, especially on the problem of drug-trafficking from Afghanistan through Russia to Europe etc.

In the framework of these issues planned to be discussed, on Friday, February 9, Mr Ivanov will be meeting with the Defence Minister of Germany and, afterwards, there will be a meeting of Sergey Ivanov with his Italian counterpart. Then, the Russian Defence Minister will be meeting with the General Secretary of the NATO and, finally, he will be attending the joint press-conference of all the Defence Ministers presented at the talks.

As for Robert Gates, in Seville the U.S. Defence Secretary dismissed the notion the United States has any plans to attack Iran.

It followed a statement from Iran which threatens to target global U.S. interests if its territory is targeted.

However, Mr Gates said it was mere rhetoric.

“My impression is they make threats like this from time to time. We have no intention of attacking Iran, the (George W. Bush) President (of the United States) said that, the (US) Secretary of State (Condoleezza Rice) said it, I've said it before, obviously when it comes to things like these tests, we watch them closely, and other than that I think it's just another day in the Persian Gulf,” said Mr Gates.