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6 Apr, 2009 08:52

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, Apr.6

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, Apr.6

This Monday ROAR presents breakfast with the Foreign Minister and a political scientist’s view on NATO at 60.

ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA publishes a ‘business breakfast’ exclusive interview with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Asked about the presidential summit in London and the state of Russia-US relations, the Foreign Minister quoted the Russian President: after the summit Dmitry Medvedev said that the main factor of the summit’s success was the fact that the both sides had arrived at it ready to commence a mutually respectful dialogue of equals.

The minister says that the readiness to listen and take matters into consideration on the part of the US side is impressive and very different from the operational mode of the previous Washington administration. He says that even the issue of missile defense, where the two sides ‘have agreed to disagree’, the American president and his team showed that they are ready to consider the whole affair one more time and try to arrive at collective solutions, which would be truly beneficial for the process of missile non-proliferation.

The minister also says that good personal relations between the Russian and US leaders do not guarantee good relations between the two nations, as the recent past has shown us. However, this time good personal impressions from the meeting, which may become the beginning of a good personal relationship between the presidents, are supplemented by good impressions left to each other by the members of the Russian and American teams, who worked together preparing the summit.

The minister says that in the next few months many meetings on various levels will take place, including the meetings of the negotiators preparing new agreements on strategic assault weapons reduction and other bilateral issues that would be discussed at the next summit in Moscow.

However, says Lavrov, there is not going to be any ‘trade-off’ on Iran (missile defense discontinuation in exchange for Moscow’s amended position on Iran). Russia will continue cooperation with that country. In that sense, he added, Iran’s involvement in the general nuclear weapons non-proliferation process is very important: Iran, a non-nuclear signatory of the Non-proliferation Treaty, must act according to the Treaty, but the Treaty doesn’t limit Iran’s ability to develop a program for peaceful use of nuclear power.

On the two major conferences on Afghanistan (in Moscow and the Hague) the minister says that as Russia was the main coordinator for the first one (arranged by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization), and the US for the second one (together with the UN and the government of the Netherlands), both sides helped each other with the organizational work. It was useful cooperation. It is very important, continues Lavrov, that both these conferences confirmed the central role of the UN in the coordination of every effort world-wide.

On Russia’s relations with NATO the minister says that Russia’s position remains firm: we do not see any necessity in the expansion of NATO. European and Euro-Atlantic security can be achieved through other means. On the other hand, we do not say that we have a monopoly on certain countries where our national interest is deeply rooted. We only say that our interests need to be taken into account. The minister offered the example of Bulgaria where NATO military bases are to be built soon, which doesn’t prevent Bulgaria from intensifying its relations with Russia and participation in joint economic programs.

As for the rumors about Russia’s NATO membership, says Lavrov, we never applied for it. For us, working in the format of the NATO-Russia Council is quite enough, if the work is organized according to the original principles. But it is not, and besides that the relations were severed – not by us – in August, so we have to mend them today. We wanted to call a meeting of the Council during the hostilities, in order to stop the Georgian aggression in South Ossetia, but our NATO partners somehow shied away from a straight discussion.

Now our partners want to restore the relations to their full pre-war level and we agree to that, but we want to know on which principles we are going to base our cooperation. If on those originally established for the Russia-EU Council, we say ‘yes,’ but if our partners are not satisfied with those principles any more, we will need to decide what to do about it.

In the interview the Foreign Minister also answered questions on Georgia (there is a possibility that a new provocation against Russia with possible military implications may be under preparation there), on the reform of the UN (it doesn’t only mean the reform of the Security Council which may or may not happen: a wider Security Council may lose some of its authority instead of gaining more; but, for instance, the upgrade of the Human rights Commission into the Human Rights Committee which gives it a much higher status) and other matters.

KOMMERSANT publishes an article by political scientist Boris Makarenko, who writes that 60 years for a military bloc is certainly old age, but not time for retirement just yet. The slogans change with ages, he says, and if in the past Germany as a member was considered a risk of revenge and Russia was to be kept as far away as possible, today the German military might is more of a resource than a threat to its neighbors. As far as Russia is concerned, matters are more complicated, says Makarenko.

The process of ‘resetting’ relations with the US is also part of the general process of the resetting of Russia’s relations with the West, including NATO as well. The fact that, amid the anniversary jubilations, US President Barack Obama called his London meeting with President Medvedev ‘terrific’ does not only mean that the meeting had gone well (or great – depending on the shade of ‘terrific’), but it also refers to the discussion of matters among which there are issues on which we are not in any kind of concord.

Missile defense in Eastern Europe has been confirmed as a program pursued by the US government, NATO hasn’t said anything about not accepting Georgia and Ukraine as members in the future, and the only piece of really good news here is our – and their – readiness to tolerate the differences on these issues for a while, to cooperate in the promotion and pursuit of our common interests.

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT.