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More U.S.-Russia Contacts Planned

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Dec. 4, 1997 – U.S. troops can expect to see more of their Russian counterparts.

Plans call for more visits, more activities under the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, educational and technical exchanges, more Partnership for Peace activities and training exercises.

U.S. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Russian Defense Minister Marshal of the Army Igor Sergeyev signed a cooperation plan here Dec. 3 that lists 14 activities, programs and contacts between the armed forces of the two countries for 1998.

The more contacts the better, Cohen said, because they help eliminate doubt and suspicion and help forge compliance to agreements. Contacts are in the interests of both countries and the world, he said.

The Russian military is going through painful downsizing, Cohen said. Russian President Boris Yeltsin announced substantial cuts in conventional forces. The United States has offered to share its own downsizing expertise.

"They will need to find ways and resources to help those who will have to leave the military and go into the private sector," Cohen said. "We can show them, by way of example, how we've consolidated bases, ... show that when the government works in a concerted fashion you can help ease the pain for those individuals and communities who are affected by downsizing. "The two defense leaders also discussed steps to further disarmament, the importance of working together to control weapons of mass destruction and the important partnership formed through working together in Bosnia, Cohen said.

Sergeyev was in Brussels to attend the first NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council meeting Dec. 3.

"The council makes Russia part of the European security dialogue," Cohen said. "Although Russia cannot determine NATO policy, it has become a participant in these discussions that lead to policy decisions."

"There is mutual interest and preparedness [for] open dialogue in the future," Sergeyev said following the council meeting. "Today we are undertaking the first, perhaps, timid steps toward a very honest partnership."

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