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Russia rejects NATO offer but rules out 'new Cold War'

AFP | July 18, 2007

Russia rejected a NATO offer for consultations on a key European arms treaty Wednesday, but said it would continue talks with the United States on the treaty and dismissed the idea of a new Cold War.

Russia last week announced it would suspend participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) arms control treaty after months of tensions over US plans to deploy an anti-missile system in central Europe.

In a statement on Monday, NATO expressed concern about the Russian suspension, urging Moscow to enter into talks to ensure the text was not abandoned.

"I don't see much point in holding such a meeting since the position of NATO on the CFE treaty has not yet changed," Yevgeny Buzhinsky, a top defence ministry official, was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying.

The CFE treaty limits deployments of tanks and troops in NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries.

In a telephone call with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, however, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said bilateral talks on the treaty would continue.

Lavrov emphasised Russia's "willingness to keep discussing a series of questions connected with the CFE," the ministry said in a statement.

Buzhinsky, who heads up the defence ministry department in charge of international treaties, also questioned on Wednesday Russia's participation in two key nuclear arms agreements with the United States.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Washington should be turned into a multilateral agreement and the United States should respond to Russian offers on the Strategic Offensive Reductions treaty, Buzhinsky said.

"This treaty imposes restrictions only on two sides. I would propose making it multilateral," Buzhinsky said, referring to the 1987 INF accord, which bans ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of 500-5,500 kilometres.

On the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions treaty, which aims to reduce warheads in Russia and the United States by two-thirds, he said: "We still haven't received an answer to our proposals from the United States."

He stressed that the treaty provisions run out in 2009.

But the Russian general also rejected talk of a "new Cold War," which has gained ground because of the recent tensions between Moscow and Washington and an increasingly assertive Russian foreign policy.

"I don't see the basis for a start of some new Cold War. There aren't the same ideological contradictions now that existed then. But it's true that we don't like the actions of our Western partners," he said.

Buzhinsky also emphasised that Russia was not planning an arms build-up on its Western frontier and would not deploy short- and medium-range missiles in its Kaliningrad enclave between Poland and Lithuania.

"The Russian moratorium on the CFE absolutely does not mean that our troops will be increased on the western frontier. We do not see this as necessary," Buzhinsky said.

The Russian general said the CFE treaty should either be changed or a new one should be negotiated. If NATO countries do not ratify the treaty by December, Russia will pull out, he said.

NATO has insisted that its members can ratify the treaty only after Russia pulls all its troops out of two former Soviet republics, Georgia and Moldova, where Russia has peacekeeping contingents.


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