RICHARD TO DISCUSS KURSK TRAGEDY IN MOSCOW

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Igor Korotchenko Nezavisimaya Gazeta, January 17, 2001, p. 6

One result of the French defense minister’s visit to Moscow may be Europe’s invitation of Russia to participate in the building of pan-European defense.

Official Moscow pays much attention to developing relations with France. The Russian Defense Ministry takes the current two-day visit of Moscow by French Defense Minister Alain Richard to be a considerable contribution to the dialog between the two countries’ Defense Ministries. Mr. Richard will hold talks with his Russian counterpart Marshal Igor Sergeev, Secretary of the Security Council Sergei Ivanov, Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, and Andrei Nikolaev, Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee.

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Russian-French 2000 relationships in the military sphere were developing without any coordinated plan. The 2001-2002 program of contacts between the Russian and French Defense Ministries developed by the Russian side and handed over to France in September 2000 envisions holding 23 events in 2001 (12 in Russia and 11 in France), including visits of Russia by the French Navy and Ground Troops commanders, joint military exercises of the two countries’ airborne units, talks over regional security and stability, internship programs for cadets, the 6th session of the Russian-French Committee for Military-Technical Cooperation, meetings of the committee’s expert technical groups, reciprocal visits of warships, and a visit to France by General Anatoly Kvashnin, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces. In addition, after the submarine Kursk tragedy the problem of search and rescue of vessels in distress has acquired especial topicality. In this connection the two countries realize the objective necessity of working out and signing an international agreement on averting accidents with submerged submarines. Moscow believes it expedient to initiate an exchange of relevant proposals between specialists of the Russian and French Navies. With all the drawbacks, the military-technical cooperation between Russia and France is developing fairly rapidly. At its latest Paris session in November 2000 the Russian-French Committee for Military-Technical Cooperation determined prospective directions of this cooperation which must result in mutual benefit. The concluding protocol of the session states the sides’ readiness to intensify work of the expert technical groups and develop contract agreements as soon as possible on a number of projects, such as the creation of a space control system in the interests of France, the French Armed Forces’ purchase of a high-precision artillery system (to be developed on the basis of the Russian-made Krasnopol guided artillery system) for further supplies to a North Africa country, and also upgrading the Russian-made Arena tank active protection system to meet the standards of French armor troops. At the November 2000 session the sides confirmed mutual interest in continuation of joint work on the MiG-AT prototype training jet.

At the same time, further development of Russian-French military-technical cooperation is impeded by the absence of an intergovernmental agreement on protection of classified information and materials. A draft agreement is nearly totally coordinated save for the paragraph having to do with reimbursement in case of promulgation of joint confidential information by one of the sides. Russia is fairly right to insist on this paragraph, since promulgation of secrets certainly causes damage to their owners. The draft agreement, expected to be signed during Mr. Alain’s current visit to Moscow, will become an additional guarantee for either side.

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