U.S. Admiral Wants Continued Ties

Setaf Public AffairsSenior U.S. and Russian generals saluting as their countries' national anthems are played in Moscow in 2004.
LOS ANGELES -- The top U.S. military officer has pleaded for continued cooperation with Russia despite Moscow's widely condemned military action in Georgia.

"I believe we've got to have a relationship with Russia," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Los Angeles on Monday.

"I don't believe we should discontinue engagement on the military side, because that relationship is going to be very important in the future," Mullen said.

The United States and other Western nations strongly condemned Russia for sending troops and tanks into Georgia last month after Tbilisi tried to regain control of the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

In the wake of the war, the Pentagon said it would review all aspects of its relations with Russia. Washington and NATO have canceled military exercises with Russian forces.

While Mullen urged Moscow to respect a French-brokered peace pact and said U.S. ally Georgia deserved strong support, he argued that maintaining cooperation with Russia would benefit America.

"We need to approach this in a measured way and do it in a way that recognizes we have mutual interests with Russia," he told a gathering organized by Town Hall Los Angeles, a nonprofit group that sponsors debates on topical issues.

Mullen's measured remarks chimed with comments last week by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said Russia did not pose a threat on a par with that of the Soviet Union.

They stand in contrast to harsher rhetoric from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Republican U.S. presidential candidate John McCain, who has said Russia would face severe consequences for its actions in Georgia.

Mullen said cooperation with Moscow was in America's interests both in the Caucasus and around the world.