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Missile Talks May Lead to New U.S.-Russia Understandings

Missile Talks May Lead to New U.S.-Russia Understandings

By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service.

Moscow, Russia -- (AFPS) August 12, 2001 -- The first time Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was in Russia was in 1974. He accompanied then-President Gerald R. Ford to Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.

Leonid Brezhnev was the general secretary of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union was still very much a going concern.

The distrust between the two countries was so intense that if American officials wanted to discuss things privately they "bundled up and went outside to talk in the snow," Rumsfeld said.

The Bush administration wants to change this relationship, and Rumsfeld's latest trip to Russia is a part of that process.

Rumsfeld will discuss missile defense, offensive nuclear reductions and other items with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov.

Rumsfeld will discuss cuts in offensive nuclear missiles pointing out to Ivanov that the United States is already going down that road with the cuts to the Peacekeeper missile system and the conversion of two Trident SLBM subs to cruise missile platforms.

"If you look at the changes in conventional forces between NATO and the Warsaw Pact that's taken place in the last decade, it ought not to be out of the question that there be similar changes with respect to the offensive nuclear forces," Rumsfeld said. U.S. officials cannot make firm offers until the ongoing Nuclear Posture Review is finished and President Bush has digested the results.

The two will also discuss the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. Bush administration officials want a mutual U.S.- Russian withdrawal from the treaty. Rumsfeld said he wouldn't be surprised if the Russians weren't ardent supporters of a missile defense program in 10 years.

As more and more countries acquire weapons of mass destruction and the capability to deliver them, people's attitudes will change, he said.

Rumsfeld and Ivanov also will discuss military-to-military contacts between the countries and how they can be furthered and improved.

"I have always encouraged military-to-military contacts," Rumsfeld said. "I think it is a helpful thing … to have contacts at that level. It tends to demystify things. Furthermore, political leadership tends to come in and out of office, and military people tend to stay in for careers. So the continuity of those relationships can be enormously valuable."

Officials don't expect concrete accomplishments from the meeting. They said it is enough that Rumsfeld and Ivanov are consulting and trying to define the new U.S.-Russian relationship.

The Moscow meeting will further the process of engagement across the board with the Russians, Rumsfeld said. It is in the best interests of the United States that Russia continues on the road toward becoming a peaceful, prosperous, democratic state. To do this, officials must refashion U.S.-Russian political and economic relationships as well as the security relationship, he said.

A lot of history must be overcome.

The United States and Soviet Union were allies in World War II. Relations chilled immediately after the war and froze in 1949 when the Soviets exploded an atomic weapon. In 1950, the U.S. military found itself fighting a Soviet-backed North Korean army. Communism and capitalism vied for primacy all over the world.

For 45 years, the relationship between the two countries was based on distrust, hate, rivalry and fear.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, a host of independent republics rose from the wreckage, including a democratic Russia. But people lag behind the political changes, Rumsfeld said.

"The American people kind of seamlessly integrate political, economic and security issues in our minds, … and all of those things fuse into an opinion about another country," he said. The same is true in Russia.

Change is not easy for people steeped in 45 years of the Cold War. "We all tend to be somewhat rooted in our past," he said. "You constantly see behavior patterns and words that reflect a Cold War construct -- a set of thinking or arrangements that demonstrate that in the back of our heads are those thoughts. It seems to me to be time to put them behind us."

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).