Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov to Push New Security Pact

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will make yet another attempt to sell the Kremlin's idea of a new European security treaty at the Munich Security Conference, which kicks off Friday.

Officials in Moscow are putting on a brave face despite the fact that the proposed pact, a key part of President Dmitry Medvedev's foreign policy, has been more or less snubbed by NATO, the United States and the European Union.

"There is a host of countries that want to discuss the proposal with us, among them Spain and Italy," Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Lyakin-Frolov told The Moscow Times on Thursday.

Lavrov will promote the treaty in a keynote speech Saturday, the spokesman said, adding that the conference would be "very useful" to discuss foreign policy with global leaders.

The conference, held since the early 1960s in the capital of the South German state of Bavaria, is best remembered in for then-President Vladimir Putin's famously hawkish "Munich speech" in 2007, which was followed by the worst post-Cold War phase of Moscow's relations with the West.

Last year, the same gathering became the turning point when, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden introduced the "reset button" as a symbol for the new administration's efforts to rebuild trust.

Yet analysts said Lavrov faces an uphill task because the West is unlikely to give up present security structures, which would be necessary to carry out Medvedev's pact.

NATO Secretary-General Fogh Anders Rasmussen said in December in Moscow that Medvedev's pact was not needed, because existing security structures were enough. EU leaders have said politely that the proposal should be discussed within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

And last week U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that while she shared the pact's main goals, negotiating new treaties would be too cumbersome.

Lavrov himself has expressed frustration about this, including last month when he characterized the treaty as a litmus test for Western honesty.

Foreign Ministry officials were adamant that Lavrov's speech would move things forward: "We hope that our Western partners will hurry up with an answer to the Russian initiative," a ministry source said, Kommersant reported Thursday.

Alexander Rahr, an expert with the German Council of Foreign Relations, said both sides were set for an impasse of polite diplomatic exchanges.

Russia knows that it will not get a definite answer, he said, because the West is not ready to back down but it does not want to antagonize Russia by saying no.

"This can go on for ever," he said by telephone from Berlin.

Lavrov will hold talks with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Berlin before traveling to Munich, the Foreign Ministry said.

The Russian delegation also includes Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lyakin-Frolov said. National Security Adviser James Jones will be the most senior Washington official to attend, U.S. media reported.

The event will also give officials from Russia and Georgia a chance to rub shoulders because Tbilisi is sending a delegation headed by Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said on its web site.

Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi remain frozen since both countries fought a brief war over the rebel province of South Ossetia in the summer of 2008.

Lyakin-Frolov said he had not heard of any planned meetings with the Georgian delegation.