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20 Oct, 2010 08:10

“Russia is a completely new country” - diplomat

NATO’s new strategic concept should be free from such atavistic concepts as perceiving Russia as a possible threat, says Vladimir Voronkov, the head of the European Co-operation Department at Russian Foreign Ministry.

These things are unacceptable for us and attempts to bring them into the new strategic concept will hardly help improve our relations with NATO,” he said. “There is no longer any difference in ideology between Russia and the rest of the world. The reason for all this prejudice as I see is the fact that we still bear the legacy of the Cold War. We can't get rid of it. My generation grew up in a time when it was absolutely obvious that the world was split in two. That was the world of the Warsaw Pact and of the NATO world. The Western world and the Eastern world. This dogma still lives on in the mind of some people, especially in the West. It is very difficult to reshape the human mind. So I guess it will take us all some time to some time to get rid of these Cold War complexes.”

Speaking about Russia’s proposals on the collective security system in Europe, Vladimir Voronkov sees them as a necessary step.

Our initiative, which was filed under the name of President Medvedev's initiative, is very simple. The essence of our suggestion is to devise a legally-binding agreement that would be signed by 56 OSCE states, including the US, Canada, European states and the Russian Federation. The agreement would restrict each of the countries that signed it from using military means except when sanctioned by the UN Security Council. No country would be allowed to strengthen its security at the expense of the security of any other state. It is a very simple method and it is very effective. A similar legally-binding agreement is currently in effect between NATO states, but between OSCE states and European countries outside of NATO this agreement is not legally binding, but purely political. We want to make it legal. That would imply a different degree of responsibility for those who violate this order,” he explained.

Vladimir Voronkov noted that Russia’s proposal had received a positive reaction from its partners.

I have to say that the overall reaction of our partners in the West to President Medvedev's initiative was positive. Our concepts of how to achieve universal security on a parity basis are different, of course. Nevertheless, we are having very intense discussion on this question. President Obama was one of the first people to respond to President Medvedev's initiative to create a new European security treaty. He reacted positively saying that the US side was ready to discuss this. And we have been discussing it for some time now. I am rather optimistic about the outcome of this discussion," he said.

You know that an OSCE session is planned for this year, the first after an 11 year recess. This was also brought about by president Medvedev's initiative. The summit will focus, among other things, on indivisible security and on the modernization of Europe's security structure. I think the forum's participants will carefully consider the suggestions we have made on the subject and in time take them into account, because we will not be able to move on until the Cold War ideas are dropped.

Speaking about some European countries’ refusal to extradite to Russia certain persons persecuted there, Voronkov believes that if the European countries will not change their position on the issue it will have negative effect on Russia-EU relations.

This is a very sensitive issue. You probably know that the problem here is the shortcomings of Russia-EU relations in the sphere of observing international law. I would put it more plainly. Russia and the EU probably have a long way to go before they begin following certain legal principles concerning the fulfillment of court rulings made in Russia and the EU. The situation concerning Akhmed Zakaev is the clear example of this. He obviously took part in terrorist activity on the territory of the Russian Federation. Despite this fact, he was granted political asylum by the EU state. He is free to move from one European country to another. Obviously there is no way we can put up with this situation. And of course things like that do have an influence on character and atmosphere of our diplomatic relations. That is why I would like to call on our European partners to be more responsible, because if they continue to act as they do now it will have a negative effect on the development of our relations,” Voronkov said.