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U.S., Russian Defense Leaders Meet, Discuss Concerns

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2000 – Weapons sales to Iran, a U.S.- Russia early warning center and reducing the permafrost in relations between the United States and Russia were discussed during a meeting between Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Russian Defense Minister Field Marshal Igor Sergeyev.

Cohen and Sergeyev held the talks following the NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels Dec. 6.

Sergeyev told Cohen that Russia would only sell defensive weapons to Iran. The Russians announced in November that they would resume arms sales to Tehran. U.S. officials are concerned about these sales. [Secretary Cohen] said that hed just returned from the Gulf, one of the most volatile regions in the world, and it wasnt in Russias interests or anyone elses interests to contribute to further destabilization in the region, said a U.S. official who briefed reporters traveling with Cohen. Sergeyev said that in recent years the Russians have adopted strict new arms export rules, and that they plan to adhere to those rules.

Much of what Russia will sell Tehran is designed to help the Iranians maintain and service old Soviet equipment that they had bought some time ago, Sergeyev told Cohen.

Cohen and Sergeyev also discussed the establishment of a shared early warning center in Moscow. The center would combine early earning data from Russian and American systems. Building the center is hung up by internal Russian government dispute. Everyone wants to go ahead with this, but there is a technical tax problem holding it up, said U.S. officials. The issue is the equipment were shipping over there is taxed. We have gotten waivers for imports under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, and were trying to get the same waivers for this.

Sergeyev said the ministry of defense wants to move ahead, and that he will look into the situation. If approved the center could be operational next year.

Cohen and Sergeyev talked about the overall state of the relationship between Russia and the United States, and Russia and NATO.

During an earlier meeting with NATOs Permanent Joint Council, Sergeyev said there was a permafrost in the relationship between Russia and NATO. He felt while permafrost was a natural state and it was a necessary part of nature, it was unnatural for human relations, and both Russia and NATO should work as aggressively as possible to reduce the permafrost in the relationship, said the U.S. official. The secretary said he appreciated these remarks that Marshal made on permafrost and he agreed that both NATO and Russia should work to reduce the permafrost, and that he would like to see less permafrost in the relationship between the United States and Russia.

Cohen told Sergeyev he would specifically like to see a more energetic and fuller military-to-military relationship, with more exchanges at all levels.

Sergeyev agreed and said he would do his best to see the U.S.-Russia Plan of Cooperation for 2001, due for signing Dec. 12, is carried out.

Cohen also spoke with Sergeyev about a NATO-Russia plan to develop common approaches to submarine and ship rescues. The six-month test grew out of the sinking of the nuclear- powered submarine Kursk.

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