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Putin: Russia Ready for New Relationship with NATO - 2001-11-23

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia is ready for a new relationship with NATO. He spoke following talks in Moscow with visiting NATO Secretary-General George Robertson.

Mr. Putin said Russia is not standing in line to join NATO but is ready to take relations as far as the Atlantic alliance wants.

President Putin also thanked Mr. Robertson for his personal involvement in trying to strengthen relations between Russia and NATO.

His comments were in keeping with the decidedly upbeat remarks of Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Vladimir Rushaylo, secretary of Russia's Security Council. After their meeting with Mr. Robertson earlier on Friday, they said Russia's relations with NATO are moving to a new level.

After talks Thursday with Defense Secretary Sergei Ivanov, Mr. Robertson said one proposal that has been put forward would give Russia an equal voice on certain NATO decisions, including discussions on terrorism.

In the past Russia has complained of its limited role in NATO's Permanent Joint Council. Russian officials say they are usually only notified of big decisions after the fact.

In remarks Thursday, Mr. Robertson referred to Russia's role in helping combat international terrorism and called for even greater cooperation in the future. "The international terrorists have gone global so why should we be dealing with things as individual nations," he said. "It makes no sense for people to pretend that national boundaries are an insurance policy against the international terrorists."

Mr. Robertson said there is currently a spirit of unprecedented cooperation - the closest cooperation between Russia and the West since the war against fascism 60 years ago. He said NATO and Russia should build on that but Mr. Robertson stressed there was no talk of Russia joining NATO.

Mr. Putin has made it clear Russia has no interest in doing so. He said that Russia is self-sufficient and can guarantee its own defense but added, "We are looking for positive, constructive relations with all countries and international organizations, especially in the security sphere."