Russia has told the United States it supports the use of force if necessary, to combat terrorism but is stopping short of offering a commitment to join the United States in military action if it decides to strike at alleged terrorist targets in Afghanistan.
Terrorism is one area where Russia and the United States find a common enemy. Russia has long been concerned about increasing Islamic militancy on its southern borders as a result of its war in mostly Muslim Chechnya - and its disastrous occupation of Afghanistan. If the United States decides to strike at suspected terrorists there, the Pentagon would certainly benefit from intelligence Moscow has accumulated from its ten year Afghan occupation.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was in Washington Wednesday, discussing what role Moscow might play in the emerging U.S. effort to build an international coalition against terrorism. He told reporters after a meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Russia will not stand in the way of U.S. led military action but would not commit to taking part. "I have said that in combating international terrorism, no means can be excluded, including military force," Mr. Ivanov said. "At the same time, so far, we have not discussed with the United States any specific, any concrete actions."
Russia's opposition to U.S. plans for a national missile defense system could play a role in its level of cooperation with the United States. After his meeting at the State Department, Foreign Minister Ivanov stopped short of restating opposition to missile defense, telling reporters the time is right instead for what he calls a new, joint system to counter global threats and challenges.
U.S. officials have said the administration is moving closer to the point where plans for missile defense may require it to abandon the Antiballistic Missile Treaty. But Secretary Powell believes the United States and Russia are moving away from a full blown dispute over what many consider to be the most important superpower arms control treaty ever negotiated. "We can begin to see a way ahead that will increase stability and lead us in the direction of a new strategic framework," he said.
U.S. officials say they are prepared to abandon the ABM treaty if no agreement with Russia is possible.