Interview with Andrey Zagorsky
Russia Today: This may be the last time Putin and Bush meet as presidents. Can we expect any historic breakthroughs at this meeting?
Andrey Zagorsky: They look like meeting for the last time for extensive talks in their capacities as presidents, although they are scheduled to meet again in September at the gathering on Asia-Pacific co-operation. Experts have not been predicting breakthroughs on any of the most controversial issues on the agenda ahead of the summit. However, we can look forward to the signing of at least two agreements. One of them is on peaceful co-operation in the nuclear field, which was prepared during their previous summit last year. Also the two presidents are likely to continue with transparency measures agreed under the previous nuclear agreements, which expire in two years time. These measures would be agreed as both sides understand they would benefit from them.
RT: Missile defence is likely to top the agenda. Putin has already proposed the joint use of the Gabala radar station instead of building new sites in Europe. What are the main problems you see to this?
A.Z.: I think we are wrong to believe that the joint use of the Gabala radar station would solve the whole problem. There are different sorts of reasons for that, not only technical ones (the Gabala radar station serves different purposes now and has not many facilities that would fit the new American systems). We also need to understand that the Americans would like to be autonomous and not share the facility with others. However, I think there is a good potential in discussing this issue if that may lead us to closer co-operation with Europe and the U.S. on ballistic missiles, which we have been discussing for several years already.
RT: Another security issue is the CFE (Conventional Forces in Europe) agreement. Do you think there is any chance the two leaders might reach agreement on it?
A.Z.: I don’t think so. Russia gave the West one year to ratify the adapted treaty. The West is waiting for Moscow to implement the Istanbul agreements, which basically mean withdrawing from conflict torn Trans-Dniester. America put forward in June a very interesting proposal on how to solve the issue by transforming the operation in Trans-Dniester. Russia has some ideas about how to solve the impasse, but definitely not in the way the Americans have proposed.
RT: In the early 1990s Russia and the US had their best relations since WW2, but now the number of conflicts between the two states has risen again. Why has this happened?
A.Z.: I wouldn’t blame either side because we both have difficulties in adapting to new situations. Then, we need to understand that it’s not the first period of controversy after the early 1990s. At the end of the 1990s we had absolutely the same dispute with the U.S. on exactly the same issues – ballistic missiles, Kosovo, and the CFE. But we talk to each other, we invent ways to compromise. We often focus on the most controversial issues, but we move forward on many avenues, for example, Iran.
RT: Which are the issues that unite the countries?
A.Z.: We have similar agendas in terms of new challenges facing our national securities. Indeed, the proposal by President Putin to have the Gabala station as a joint venture, to look at Iran – one of the issues of concern to the U.S. – indicates that the countries do have a similar understanding of the problem. But I think that the most difficult issue in the U.S.-Russian relations is the unequal level of co-operation. This is what disturbs Moscow in Washington's plans, especially in the ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) system. The Americans create their system and Russia is considered as a junior partner or not as a partner at all. We should talk and we will find the ways to co-operate.