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New Threats, New Partners: U.S., NATO Strengthen Ties with Russia

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2002 – The United States and Russia are forging "a strong friendship and partnership," according to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Russia wants "partnership relations, constructive relations and predictable relations" with the United States, according to Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

The Cold War is over, both men said May 14 during a press conference in Reykjavik, Iceland. It's a new world. The United States, NATO allies and Russia are now working together to combat terrorism and ensure international stability.

Relations with Russia are on "very sound footing," Powell said, offering a personal note as a commentary on how far U.S. and NATO's relations with Russia have progressed:

"Many years ago, when I used to come to NATO meetings as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I worried about strategic weapons going back and forth, and now we are in a poultry dispute with Russia, so I am more worried about chickens going back and forth than missiles . This is good. It is much better to worry about these kinds of exchanges than the kinds of exchanges I used to worry about."

This week, the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization took further steps to strengthen ties with Russia. A U.S.-Russian treaty will reduce both countries' nuclear arsenals. A NATO-Russia Council will enhance cooperation among the 19 NATO members and Russia.

President Bush announced Monday that the United States and Russia have agreed to a treaty that "will liquidate the legacy of the Cold War." Under the terms of the treaty, both countries will reduce their nuclear arsenals to 1,700 to 2,200 deployed warheads. The U.S. Senate and the Russian Duma must ratify the treaty.

This is good news for the American people, Bush said May 13 at the White House. "It'll make the world more peaceful, and put behind us the Cold War once and for all."

Bush said when he and Russian President Vladimir Putin sign the treaty in Moscow, a new era of U.S.-Russian relations built on mutual trust will begin. "The new era will be a period of enhanced mutual security, economic security and improved relations," the president said.

The United States currently fields about 6,000 warheads. The treaty number puts the U.S. nuclear arsenal below the benchmark of 2,000 to 2,500 warheads agreed to by former presidents Clinton and Yeltsin in 1997 as part of the framework for future strategic arms reduction treaties.

"Russia and the United States, as two great nuclear superpowers, have special responsibility for security and stability in the world," Ivanov said May 14 in Reykjavik, where he was attending a NATO foreign ministers' meeting May 13 to 15. "By signing an important treaty on reductions in strategic offensive arms, we demonstrate once again our strong resolve to go ahead in reducing the nuclear threshold."

At the ministerial, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson announced that NATO and Russia agreed to form a NATO-Russia Council. NATO's 19 heads of state and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to sign the agreement during a May 28 NATO-Russia summit in Rome.

Robertson described the council initiative as historic. "In its symbolism, the new level of practical cooperation between the 19 NATO allies and Russia illustrates how far we have already come in putting the divisions of the past behind us," he said.

The new council will allow NATO member states and Russia to sit together as 20 equals to discuss and decide on issues of common concern, Robertson said. The council will operate on the principle of consensus, he added.

"That is one of its most essential features," he said. "That is what distinguishes it most prominently from the Permanent Joint Council whose '19 plus 1' format was perceived by some as an obstacle to forging consensus."

The creation of the council, Robertson said, "demonstrates our resolve to work together more closely than ever before and gives us a structure where we can do so in genuine partnership."

For the council to be a success, he added, all members must "continue to build new mindsets and greater trust."

Forming the NATO-Russia Council is the latest step forward in the relationship that began with the 1997 Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security. The act created a base for political and military cooperation and consensus building. It set such basic principles for relations as commitments to respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all states, and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

NATO then established the Permanent Joint Council. NATO-led peacekeeping operations in Bosnia gave the new NATO-Russia relationship a head start, and the PJC spawned working groups on such issues as nuclear weapons, military-to- military cooperation, and scientific and environmental cooperation.

The thinking that characterized the Cold War will end in Rome when the NATO-Russia agreement is signed, Robertson said. "Together, the countries that spent four decades glowering at each other across a wall of hatred and fear now have the opportunity to transform future Euro-Atlantic security for the better," he concluded.

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