Top Russian Official - Absolute NYET To Bush Missiles
Russian official signals firm stance on missiles and Kosovo
MOSCOW: Russia will hold firm in its opposition to deployment of U.S. missile defenses in Eastern Europe and in its insistence that Kosovo's status be resolved to Serbia's satisfaction, the foreign minister said Monday.
"Our partners should understand that we don't bargain," the minister, Sergey Lavrov, told students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, a top school for training diplomats.
"It should be understood that, for all the non-confrontational external policy of Russia, there are so-called 'red lines' for us - this is when there is a real threat to our national security or to the existing order of international rights," he said.
"Among these are, for example, plans for deploying bases in Eastern Europe for a global missile defense system by the United States, and resolution in Kosovo," Lavrov said.
His statements indicated that no breakthroughs were foreseen in the near future to two of the biggest irritants in relations between Russia and the West.
Russia vehemently opposes the push by the United States to place elements of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Moscow says the system is aimed at undermining Russia's missile strength, thereby destroying the balance of power in Europe. The United States says the system is aimed at blocking possible missile attacks by rogue states like Iran.
On Kosovo, Russia opposes the Western-supported effort to grant the Serbian province independence. Serbia says Kosovo, which has been under international administration since the end of fighting there in 1999, must remain a part of the country. Russia has repeatedly stated it will not support any decision on Kosovo that is not agreed to by Serbia.
The foreign minister also criticized Britain for its position in the dispute over extraditing Andrei Lugovoi, the Russian identified by Britain as the main suspect in the murder last year by radioactive poison of a dissident former security agent, Alexander Litvinenko.
Russia says that its Constitution prohibits such extraditions but that it is willing to put Lugovoi on trial at home if Britain presents sufficient evidence.
"It is a pity that in the absence of convincing evidence against Lugovoi, London has opted for a noisy propaganda show," Lavrov said. In July, Britain ordered the expulsion of four Russian diplomats to protest the refusal of extradition; Russia countered by expelling four Britons.
Russia has consistently complained about Britain's refusal to extradite a Russian businessman, Boris Berezovsky, and a Chechen separatist envoy, Akhmed Zakayev, both of whom have been granted asylum there.
"I do not think that the British side, in taking the decision several years ago to grant political asylum to certain odious characters, knowingly sought to manipulate Russia's internal affairs," Lavrov said. "But London has gradually found itself, willingly or unwillingly, drawn in as a participant in intrigues directed at Russia."
Also Monday, a top Defense Ministry official said Russia would consider talks with the United States on reducing tactical nuclear weapons only if Britain and France also took part, Russian news agencies reported.
No treaties cover the countries' arsenals of tactical nuclear arms, and calls for negotiations on the issue arise periodically.
"We are ready to go into such talks with the United States," Colonel General Vladimir Verhkovtsev, head of the Defense Ministry's 12th Main Directorate, which has responsibility for nuclear weapons, said, according to the RIA-Novosti news agency.
"But let's include other countries in the process - first of all Britain and France." he said.
His comments appeared to echo the concern Russia has expressed about the U.S. missile defense system and its affect on the balance of forces in Europe.