On March 20, the Russian Defense Ministry continued its contacts with the American military. The Russian Defense Minister discussed issues related to development of cooperation in combating international terrorism with General Tommy Franks, Commander of the US Central Command, who arrived in Moscow. No documents were signed, which showed to some extent that the military contacts between Russia and the US were illusory. There is a lot of evidence that Washington treats Russia from a standpoint of the cold war still. Results of the official visit of Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov to the US confirmed this conclusion once again.

It is known that on the eve of the visit of the Russian Defense Minister to the US, the world was acquainted with sensational information stating that the secret report of Pentagon presented for consideration to the Congress on January 8 indicated that at least seven countries could become targets for American nuclear weapons. These countries include Russia, China, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya and Syria. The American newspaper Los Angeles Times wrote about this, and all leading international news agencies quoted this information.

Russian officials released the relevant statements too.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov announced that, “Moscow expects from Washington additional explanations about the reports appearing, saying that the US is allegedly going to put Russia on the list of countries attributed to the so-called “evil axis”.”

Ivanov emphasized that “if these reports are true, this can cause only pity and concern of not only Russia, but the entire international community.”

According to the Foreign Minister, this “may destabilize and aggravate the situation.” Ivanov expressed his hope that the already received explanations of US Secretary of State Colin Powell “would be followed by other explanations on a higher level.” These explanations are necessary “to persuade the international community that the US does not cherish plans of such kind,” emphasized Ivanov.

During his official visit to the US, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov spoke about the same matter. When he met with US President George Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he touched on issues related with the sensational publications about American nuclear plans.

American leaders soothed Ivanov, saying that he did not have to worry, and nuclear missiles were not aimed at Russia. Meanwhile, in their explanations they substituted the notions. The sensational publication of the American newspaper spoke not about the present time but about future times in the US. The American President and Secretary of Defense spoke in general, and their statements actually meant that the US could make Russia a possible target for a nuclear strike hypothetically.

What are the results of negotiations of Sergei Ivanov in Washington?

During the press conference organized in the Pentagon, Ivanov announced that Russian and American experts presented draft documents on a new agreement on reduction of strategic arms to each other, and the presidents of Russia and the US could sign the agreement in May 2002. However, the Defense Minister did not explain the contents of these documents, but only said that “a certain progress was achieved” in preparation of the new treaty on strategic arms reduction, especially in settlement of “some issues related to transparency.”

Ivanov also said that results of the visit to the US persuaded him that “we not only can, but also are obliged to continue active search for the ways and methods of improvement of effectiveness in cooperation between Russia and the US regarding problems of strategic stability, as well as in military and military technological cooperation, and solving of a whole range of pressing problems of international life and security.”

The Russian Defense Minister stresses that Moscow and Washington are going to keep seeking ways to move their positions regarding the whole complex of these issues closer, fully taking into account interests of both countries, “and third countries if necessary.” These words of Ivanov were sufficient for an immediate reaction from President Bush. A few hours after the press conference in the Pentagon, he announced in the White House that he shared optimism of the Russian minister, and it was possible to do something. Bush added that he would like to sign a document on strategic arms reduction when he arrived in Russia. Bush says that it would be great, meaning the meetings with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and St. Petersburg between May 23 and 26.

American Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld also spoke about the prospects of strategic offensive arms reduction. Rumsfeld also confirmed that the new agreement with Russia on strategic offensive arms could be legalized by a document.

Rumsfeld noted that leaders of the countries agreed that it would be necessary to prepare something that would be preserved after expiry of their presidency terms. Thus, a document of this kind would be definitely possible. According to Rumsfeld, Moscow and Washington also have a common interest in reduction of nuclear inventories. He adds that these weapons represent a legacy of the hostile relations that have existed in the past, and there is no need for these weapons anymore, because now relations between the US and Russia are based on friendship and not on fear of mutual annihilation.

Thus, the American president and politicians clearly confirm that they share the ideas in Russia’s proposals, that those agreements on radical reduction of strategic offensive arms should have a nature of a legally binding document. Of course, this is a step forward, although a small one, because a number of other important problems related to strategic nuclear arms remain, and these problems were mentioned during the final press conferences only occasionally. What are they?

Russian officials have frequently stated that Moscow is discontent with the problems associated with the intention of the US to store and not to destroy the nuclear warheads subject to destruction. Speaking about the essence of Russian-American problems in the field of strategic nuclear arms, Sergei Ivanov announced before his departure to the US on March 11 that the main differences of opinion were confined to the fact that Americans introduce the notion of tactically deployed strategic nuclear arms. “If we speak only about them, the agreement between the presidents of Russia and the US on radical reduction of strategic offensive arms becomes virtual. Thus a kind of nuclear ammunition is taken from the category of “on combat duty” to the category “reduced combat readiness”. Russia does not see any reduction in this,” said Ivanov. According to Ivanov, delivery vehicles of nuclear explosive devices should also be subject to liquidation. “This principle was embodied into the START-1 treaty, which is currently in effect. There should be control over liquidation or discarding of both carriers and explosive devices,” adds Ivanov.

Meanwhile, on March 13 the Russian Defense Minister announced in Washington that should the US store and not destroy the strategic offensive arms intended for reduction, Moscow would possibly follow this example. Of course, this circumstance demonstrates that Russia has decided to compromise with the US. At any rate, it is quite likely that it is not safe to store nuclear weapons for a long time. Nuclear weapons grow older, and probability of unauthorized nuclear explosion grows.

Hence, Ivanov specially stressed that “a part of nuclear ammunition, no matter if we wish this or not, needs to be discarded. This is inevitable, and is applicable not only to Russia, but also to the US.”

Thus, results of the visit of Russian Defense Minister Ivanov to the US demonstrate the intention of the greatest nuclear powers of the world to cut their strategic nuclear arms radically. Statements of officials released during the Russian-American contacts show that the issues associated with withdrawal of the US from the ABM Treaty remain, as if in the shadows. At least, American officials did not make any official statements about this yet. This circumstance shows that the problems in this field remain vital still.

On March 13, President Putin spoke about the same thing when he characterized relations between Russia and the US. According to Putin, our countries have a mutual interest in each other. However, the President emphasizes that this is a good basis for development of these relations. According to Putin, recently “the quality of these relations changed for the better,” and these relations were developing positively. However, adds Putin, this does not mean that “we have no interests of our own that do not always correspond to American interests, and that there are no problems that need to be explained to each other, and there is no heavy legacy of the past.” Putin also stresses that in the US there are more people than in Russia that are living “with the old baggage and guided by old ideas.”