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Gates Discusses Missile Issues With Russian Official

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 9, 2008 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates discussed ballistic missile defense issues with Sergey B. Ivanov, Russia’s deputy prime minister, here today.

Both men took advantage of attending the 44th Munich Conference on Strategy Policy, to continue informal U.S.-Russian defense talks.

“We discussed a lot of serious issues,” Ivanov said to reporters traveling with Gates. “We have a lot in common, particularly in non-proliferation, but also in the future arms reductions talks and, of course, missile defense talks. We will stay in contact.”

Gates said to reporters later that no matter what the Russians say about missile defense in public, “I think there is still an interest in pursuing the dialogue, and we are doing that.”

Gates said he takes advantage of every opportunity to explain the Russia the purpose of the missile defense system, and to assure the system is not a threat to Russia. He said the Russians seem to think that what he and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, put in front of President Vladimir Putin last year was “diluted” in the written version.

“We’ve tried to make clear is that the only thing different was to state the obvious, that if there were to be any reciprocal arrangements involving a Russian presence that it would require the approval of the Polish and Czech governments,” Gates said. “That kind of goes without saying; they are sovereign states.”

During the same interview Gates said that it is the U.S. position that Croatia, Albania and Macedonia are ready to join the NATO alliance. U.S. view is the three are ready for membership. He said the United States in principle wants to further the transatlantic aspirations of Ukraine and Georgia.

“It’s not secret that there are differences of view here in Europe on this subject,” he said.

Finally, the secretary said that he will speak about training for NATO personnel assigned to Afghanistan. He said the NATO forces, especially the operations military liaison teams, or OMLTs, and provincial reconstruction teams, must be trained to the same high standards.

OMLTS – pronounced omelets – have between 16 and 19 teams. They are the trainers for the Afghan army and police.

“I think training to a high level is important especially the OMLTs because they are the ones who will train the Afghans, so we want to make sure everybody is up to the same standard,” the secretary said.

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Robert M. Gates

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