Monday, February 11, 2008

MUNICH (AP) — The United States and Russia should set aside Cold War arms control treaties and replace them with multilateral agreements to combat nuclear proliferation, a senior Russian official said yesterday.

Sergei Ivanov, Russia’s defense minister until promoted to first deputy prime minister last year, said the time has come “to open this framework for all leading states interested in cooperation in order to ensure overall security.”

“Russia-U.S. ties will certainly retain their significance,” he said.

Mr. Ivanov also told a gathering of the world’s top defense officials that Russia’s burgeoning economic power does not represent a threat to other countries, but the West has to get used to Moscow’s growing influence in world affairs.

He said Russia expects to be among the world’s five biggest economies by 2020, but “we do not aim to buy the entire Old World with our petrodollars.”

“Getting richer, Russia will not pose a threat to the security of other countries. Yet our influence on global processes will continue to grow,” he said.

“More than half of Russian foreign trade is with the EU, so the Russians have already come — not with tanks, not with missiles, but with joint trade.”

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, criticized Russia’s increased assertiveness in world affairs, saying Russia has not been constructive in efforts to secure an international agreement on Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.

Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leadership has said it will declare independence unilaterally from Serbia “in a matter of days.”

The United States and most EU nations support statehood for the U.N.-run province, where 90 percent of the population of 2 million is ethnic Albanian.

Mr. Ivanov said Russia thinks that recognizing an independent Kosovo would set a dangerous precedent.

“We want to stay within the international law framework, and we don’t want to create a precedent, and we think if it comes to unilateral recognition of Kosovo that will be a precedent … and that will be something close to opening a Pandora’s Box,” he said.

Mr. Solana rejected fears that other breakaway regions would follow Kosovo’s example.

“I’m not concerned at all,” he told reporters. “No conflict is equal, no history is equal. … This domino theory is completely wrong.”

Mr. Ivanov said Russia’s revival “objectively combines our ambition to occupy an appropriate place in world politics and commitment to maintaining our national interests,” but “we do not intend to meet this challenge by establishing military blocs or engaging in open confrontation with our opponents.”

Though Moscow and Washington have been at odds over an American plan to position parts of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, Mr. Ivanov said Russia and the United States need to work closely together to combat nuclear proliferation.

He suggested that old bilateral treaties between the United States and Russia on nuclear arms should be replaced by multilateral agreements.

“It is imperative to ensure that the provisions of such a regime should be legally binding so that, in due course, it would really become possible to shift to the control over nuclear weapons and the process of their gradual reduction on a multilateral basis,” he said.

Involvement of all major nuclear nations, he said, “is the essence of our proposals related to the anti-missile defense and to the intermediate and short-range missiles.”

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