Monday, February 06, 2006

Reaction: Negative

Today's summary by RFE/RL's Newsline of current developments in Russian government foreign policy and thinking on democracy leaves little room for doubt as to where Moscow's attitude to the countries of the West is headed:
RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER WANTS UN TO LEAD ANTITERROR FRONT... Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov told an international security conference in Munich on 5 February that there is an urgent need for an international front against international terrorism under the aegis of the United Nations, RFE/RL reported. Ivanov said such an organization should press the international community and individual countries to remove loopholes in international law and domestic legislation that allow terrorists and their allies to operate. He said the UN should also eliminate what he called double standards in evaluating the terrorist threat, arguing that attacks on military forces in Iraq are defined as terrorism while similar actions by militants in Russia are frequently presented as a struggle by the Chechen people for freedom and independence. Ivanov also criticized Western governments for delaying ratification of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. Western countries are reluctant to ratify the treaty until Russia withdraws all its military forces from Georgia and Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region. PM

...WHILE BEING VAGUE ON NATO... Defense Minister Ivanov said in Munich on 5 February that Russia has no plans to join NATO at present, Interfax reported. "Russia is not thinking about applying for NATO membership.... [Russia is] a Eurasian state, which develops relations with China, India, Korea, and other countries in that region," he noted. Ivanov argued that future relations between his country and the Atlantic alliance, if it expands further to the east, "will depend on the future image of NATO. If the alliance remains a purely military organization, it will pose a certain threat to Russia." PM

...AND CALLING FOR TALKS WITH IRAN. Russia continues to favor a diplomatic approach to dealing with Iran, Defense Minister Ivanov said in Munich on 5 February, arguing that "nothing beats the IAEA mechanism," Russian news agencies reported. He argued that it nonetheless would be "a very bad sign" if international inspectors were expelled from the country. "Iran is our neighbor, and we are not interested in aggravating the situation in that region, which is already explosive," Ivanov stressed. When asked by the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" whether he agrees with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's observation that Iran is the foremost sponsor of terrorism, Ivanov replied that this is a matter for debate. He argued that it was not Iranian nationals who carried out the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, and that Iran does not sponsor "terrorist activities" in Chechnya, as some other, unnamed countries in the Middle and Near East do. Meanwhile, unnamed sources close to Russian-Iranian negotiations told Interfax in Moscow that Federal Atomic Energy Agency head Sergei Kiriyenko will visit Iran in late February. An Iranian delegation is expected in Moscow on February 16 to discuss Russia's uranium-enrichment proposal. PM

IVANOV PRAISES LUKASHENKA... Defense Minister Ivanov said in Munich on 5 February that he has no doubt that Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenka will win reelection in the upcoming vote, Interfax reported. "Does anybody doubt...that [Lukashenka] is the most popular candidate for president in Belarus? This is a fact, like it or not. I am convinced that he will win." Asked if unrest is a possibility in connection with the Belarusian vote, Ivanov replied: "We should do all we can so that this does not happen. This is important." He added that Russia "will react negatively, of course," in case of unrest. PM
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