- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2001

MOSCOW Despite Moscow's sharp rhetoric, Russia will eventually reconcile itself to U.S. intentions to build a national missile defense system, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer predicted yesterday.
Russia has steadfastly maintained that the U.S. project is a threat to international stability because it violates the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, which prohibits anti-missile systems that defend an entire nation. Germany also opposes the U.S. proposal.
"In the end, the Russians are going to accept it," Mr. Fischer, in Moscow for a two-day visit, told reporters. He added that Washington would have a harder time with China, which could decide to build up its arsenal in response to missile defense plans.
Washington has long tried to assure Moscow that the missile shield could not guard against Russia's huge nuclear arsenal but was designed only to protect against possible smaller-scale attacks by so-called rogue nations. Russia has rejected the argument.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said yesterday the United States should hold talks with Russia on widening the ABM treaty before going forward with a national missile defense system.
Germany also has shown support to Russia on another sensitive defense issue NATO's eastward expansion. Moscow is worried that the Western alliance is getting too close to Russia's borders, and Berlin has cautioned against expanding NATO too quickly.
Yet Mr. Fischer noted a "very positive development" in Russian-NATO relations in recent weeks, adding that Moscow may be more amenable than it sounds.
"The [Russian] comments are sometimes a bit harsh, but it all depends on the climate," Mr. Fischer said. "The climate is good; there's a difference between statements and climate."
Mr. Fischer also said he did not see Germany as a mediator between Russia and the United States on security issues, and said the countries were capable of negotiating directly. "Germany does not have the role of go-between for Washington and Moscow," he said.
Mr. Fischer met yesterday afternoon with Gennady Seleznyov, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, and with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
He was expected to express concern over Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran. Last week in Berlin, he issued a warning to Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi against any attempt to use Russian technology to build nuclear weapons.
Russia has signed a deal to build a nuclear reactor at Iran's Bushehr power plant, drawing strong U.S. objections over fears that the technology could be used to develop nuclear arms. Moscow and Tehran maintain the plant can be used only for civilian purposes.
Mr. Fischer did not comment on the Iran deal after the meeting with Mr. Ivanov.
Today, Mr. Fischer was scheduled to meet with President Vladimir Putin, who perfected his German serving as a KGB agent in East Germany. Mr. Putin's friendship with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has given a boost to Russian-German ties over the past year.


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