NATO Chief Urges Calm Talks With Russia

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 26, 2007; 6:18 PM

MOSCOW -- NATO's chief acknowledged on Tuesday that relations with Russia have been strained by disputes over missile defense, arms control and Kosovo, and he appeared to scold the Kremlin for threatening to retarget its nuclear warheads at European cities.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's comments came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned NATO earlier in the day against steps that would compromise Russian security and said the two sides faced "difficult work" in trying to resolve their differences.

President Vladimir Putin made the threat to re-aim Russian missiles at Europe's cities last month in what appeared to be a response to U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in eastern Europe.

He also threatened to pull out of the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which governs the deployment of troops in Europe.

"The NATO-Russian relation is one of partnership and discussion, and the targeting of missiles will not fit in that discussion," de Hoop Scheffer said. NATO also "deplores Russia's decision to put the fate of the CFE in danger," he said.

De Hoop Scheffer said Western and Russian leaders should both tone down their rhetoric, saying Russia and NATO had made good progress in building "a durable, mutually beneficial partnership."

"It is advisable to lower the volume of public comments on both sides," he said.

"Given our starting point as Cold War adversaries, the task of building a genuine Russia-NATO partnership has never been an easy one," said de Hoop Scheffer, whose visit was timed to the 10th anniversary of the post-Soviet partnership of NATO and Russia and five years since the creation of the NATO-Russia Council.

Earlier, at a meeting of the council, Russia's foreign minister pointed to persistent disagreements over arms control and said the alliance should not take any actions that would undermine Russia's security.

"These issues touch on key aspects of European and international security, and aspects of strategic stability," Lavrov said. "Of course, it's necessary to approach them in a way that reflects care for each other's stability and security _ not taking any steps aimed at improving someone's security at the expense of the security of others."

Moscow is upset over U.S. plans to deploy missile defense facilities in the former Soviet bloc states of Poland and the Czech Republic as a defense against rockets fired by such states as Iran. Russia sees the system as a threat to its own missile forces.

The Kremlin also is demanding the West sign an updated conventional forces treaty, but the Western allies want Russia to first remove troops and military equipment from the two former Soviet republics of Moldova and Georgia.

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