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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov Assures NATO on Nukes

APIvanov, Rumsfeld and NATO Secretary-General George Robertson looking at the NATO logo on the floor at the meeting Thursday.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado -- Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov assured NATO that Moscow is not adopting a more aggressive nuclear stance and remains committed to cooperation with the Western alliance.

"Russia still regards nuclear weapons as a deterrent," Ivanov told a news conference late last week after meeting with his NATO counterparts. "In no scenario is there mention of going first with the use of such weapons."

Ivanov downplayed reports quoting a Defense Ministry document saying Moscow may rethink its nuclear strategy in response to NATO's "offensive military doctrine." Ivanov was also quoted in Moscow as saying Russia did not rule out a pre-emptive attack anywhere if national interests demand it.

Joining the final sessions of a two-day NATO meeting in this Rocky Mountain city, he stressed Thursday that such an attack would not involve nuclear weapons and said the document from his ministry had been "misreported."

NATO officials welcomed Ivanov's reassurances and said the alliance was pushing ahead with closer military ties with Moscow.

The U.S. ambassador to NATO, Nicholas Burns, said the meeting showed "Russia has no negative intentions whatsoever toward NATO, quite the opposite."

NATO diplomats suggested the document may have been designed to appeal to conservative military officers in Russia, and did not represent a shift in Russian policy.

In his news conference, however, Ivanov highlighted a number of differences with Western nations, including criticism of Russia's aid to Iran's nuclear power program; a refusal by some countries to hand over Chechens whom Moscow regards as terrorists; and what he said were NATO plans to station warplanes "three minutes from St. Petersburg."

That was an apparent reference to NATO's plans to bring in seven old Eastern Bloc nations as new members in May, including Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

Ivanov also spoke of Russian plans to boost its forces in Central Asia, and said U.S. forces operating out of bases in former Soviet republics in the region should be removed when America's mission in Afghanistan is over.

After a meeting between Ivanov and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, American officials emphasized improved relations, saying the two countries were boosting military ties with more joint exercises and cooperation was under way to develop missile defenses and radar systems.

Rumsfeld and Ivanov discussed a work agenda that emerged from U.S. President George W. Bush's meeting last month at Camp David with President Vladimir Putin, according to a senior U.S. official present at Rumsfeld's meeting.

Rumsfeld presented a proposed agreement that would lay the legal foundation for the countries to pursue joint projects in a variety of military fields, including missile defense, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In a sign of closer relations, Ivanov visited the top secret headquarters of the North American Aerospace Defense Command inside Cheyenne Mountain, overlooking Colorado Springs.

Russia's relations with NATO have warmed since the signing last year of a partnership agreement that increased military and political contacts and established a NATO-Russia Council that sets up regular meetings between Russian ministers and their NATO counterparts.

Ivanov said the two sides were faced with similar threats from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and should help each other modernize their armed forces. "Smart people think alike," he joked.