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Pentagon Hosts Russian Minister

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 20, 1997 – After 50 years of Cold War, America's former foe recently entered the Pentagon's inner sanctum.

Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov spent two hours on a Sunday morning inside the secure Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room known as "the tank."

Primakov's visit March 16 symbolized how far U.S.-Russian relations have progressed since the end of the Cold War, said Defense Secretary William Cohen.

The U.S. military's highest ranking officer, Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, regularly meets with the service chiefs and other senior defense leaders in the windowless second floor conference room.

The tank earned its nickname in 1942 when the chiefs held their first formal meeting in a room in downtown Washington reached by descending a stairway and going through an archway, giving the impression of entering a tank. Even after the chiefs moved to the Pentagon, the nickname survived.

Inside today's tank, DoD officials briefed the Russian minister on U.S. force reductions in Europe and on the new NATO. They covered how NATO has been reconfigured, its new command structure and how U.S. officials foresee NATO's relationship with Russia unfolding, Cohen said.

Russian leaders say they fear NATO will deploy nuclear weapons closer to its borders if new members are admitted to the security alliance. Cohen said he assured Primakov there is no reason to do so.

"We have taken great pains to show how an enlargement of NATO will not be structured in a way that will pose an offensive threat to Russia," Cohen said. "We are proposing measures that will deal with their legitimate security questions as opposed to unreasonable fears or exaggerations that might be generated by those opposed to any concept of NATO enlargement."

The briefing was a "give and take" opportunity for the Russian delegation, Cohen said. "Ordinarily, you could have run through the presentation in about a half hour, but we took the time to answer questions that he and his associates posed."

Cohen said Primakov said he was impressed by the frank exchange. "It was the first time he had the opportunity to meet with our military leaders and pose questions to them. I think he will go back to President [Boris] Yeltsin with a report that is quite positive."

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