Ivanov Calls for New Nuclear Arms Regime

ReutersFirst Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov speaking to NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at a security conference in Munich over the weekend.
MUNICH, Germany -- The United States and Russia should set aside Cold War arms-control treaties and replace them with new, multilateral agreements to combat nuclear proliferation, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said Sunday at a security conference in Munich.

Ivanov, defense minister until being promoted last year, said the time had come "to open this framework for all leading states interested in cooperation in order to ensure overall security."

One year after President Vladimir Putin in an address to the same conference called Washington to task for what he characterized as a reckless and dangerous foreign policy, Ivanov said, "Russia-U.S. ties will certainly retain their significance."

Russia and the United States have been at odds recently over Washington's plan to install missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic as part of a larger system.

Ivanov told reporters after a Munich security conference that he and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates held "constructive" talks and indicated that there were still many proposals on the table acceptable to Russia.

But, he said, if the United States should go ahead with its plans despite Russian objections, Moscow would be forced to counter somehow the systems being built close to its borders.

"Certainly we will take certain measures, but we will not be hasty," he said, noting that the U.S. system would take four to five years to build.

He did not elaborate on the measures, except to say that they would be "effective and adequate and much cheaper than this third positioning region" of the U.S. defense system.

Earlier, Ivanov told the gathering of the world's top defense officials that Russia's burgeoning economic power did not represent a threat to other countries. But he said the West must get used to Moscow's growing influence in world affairs.

He said Russia expected to be among the world's five biggest economies by 2020, but added, "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.

He said more than half of Russia's foreign trade is with the EU. "So the Russians have already come -- not with tanks, not with missiles, but with joint trade."

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana criticized Russia's increased assertiveness in world affairs, however, saying Moscow had not been constructive in efforts to secure an international agreement on Kosovo's future.

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 UN-run province where 90 percent of the population of 2 million is ethnic Albanian.

Ivanov said Russia believed 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 that if it comes to unilateral recognition of Kosovo, that will become a precedent ... and it will be something close to opening Pandora's box," he said.

The breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have indicated that they may follow Kosovo's example. But Ivanov told reporters that Russia would not rush to recognize them.

I can assure you that it is not the case that Russia is going to recognize "Abkhazia and South Ossetia the next day," he said.

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."

Despite recent disagreements over the missile defense system, Ivanov said Russia and the United States must work closely together to combat nuclear proliferation. He suggested that old bilateral treaties between the United States and Russia on nuclear arms -- like the Salt 1 agreement -- should be replaced by multilateral agreements.

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

"The 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."