26 May 2009

Russia‘s envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin: Scheffer should bring constructive proposals on cooperation development to Moscow

A possible visit by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to Moscow is expected to bring new ideas and proposals; however, they are unlikely to deal with the invitation of Russia to NATO

A possible visit by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to Moscow is expected to bring new ideas and proposals; however, they are unlikely to deal with the invitation of Russia to NATO.

"The possibility of a visit is being discussed," Russia‘s envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin told Interfax on Tuesday, noting that it is too early to speak about the level of such a visit.

"The issue is about a meeting, between a high-ranking official, with the political leader of such country as Russia," Rogozin said.

That is why the Moscow meeting "should be accompanied by serious preparative work and the readiness to simultaneously discuss some new aspects in our relations," he said.

NATO leadership came up with the initiative of such a visit to Russia, and it was expected to take place in the late fall of 2008, but these plans were rescheduled in the wake of the August events in the Caucasus, he added.

Rogozin however noted if Scheffer‘s visit to Moscow "is formal in nature or shadowed by irreconcilable disputes on controversies we have, many will not be interested in it."

Rogozin also suggested that Scheffer will discuss the issue of a meeting at a high political level with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, the head of a Russian delegation to the security conference in Munich on February 6 - 8.

Asked whether the issue of Russia‘s possible invitation to NATO will be touched upon during the visit, Rogozin said, "No, I think we are to far away fr om a possibility of raising such an issue."

"Political experts could allow themselves to speak about whatever they like, and say something like relocating NATO headquarters from Brussels somewhere to a crater on the dark side of the Moon," he said.

"To speak seriously, one should speak about restoring cooperation, and this is a rather lengthy process," Rogozin said.

Russian officials will are unlikely to be invited to the NATO anniversary summit, which is scheduled to take place in April 2009, Russian envoy to NATO said also.

"It is virtually impossible at this time and is not very probable long-term," Rogozin said.

Rogozin reiterated that no one should look for any political background in the absence of such an invitation.

"There is no political background here, it is just that no partners were expected to take part in this event from the very start," he said.

The NATO anniversary summit is planned as "a celebration," said Rogozin.

"No serious political declarations, except for the document aimed at the political future of NATO, will be adopted," he said. No meetings of commissions are scheduled to take place either, he said.

"It will be a purely celebratory event, very brief - just one night and several hours of the day, and constant travel across the French-German border," Rogozin said.

A decision to resume cooperation between Russia and NATO at the level of the defense agencies will be made at a high political level, Rogozin said also.

"I admit, this issue was addressed at the informal the NATO-Russia Council meeting," Rogozin said.

However, military cooperation has not been resumed yet and an embargo has not yet been lifted from the joint military cooperation projects, he said.

Military agencies have a prerogative to discuss such issues, but the Monday meeting became a good start for dialogue at the level of the heads of the defense agencies, Rogozin said.

In the meeting on Monday, the NATO Military Committee was represented by its chairman Di Paola.

A separate discussion should be conducted involving "military professionals" to discuss what should be done to resume cooperation between Russia and NATO, Rogozin said. "But it will not happen soon and I think it will only happen after contacts at a political, not diplomatic, level take place," he said.

A full-fledged meeting of the Russia-NATO Council could theoretically be held in February, but its most likely negotiated time is March, Rogozin said also.

"Theoretically, given the pace we would like to give to NATO‘s relations with Russia, and taking into account the problems the Alliance is experiencing in Afghanistan and in other regions, wh ere getting along without Russia‘s assistance would be rather problematical, a fully-fledged meeting at an ambassadorial level could take place before the end of February," Rogozin said in an interview with Interfax on Tusday, while commenting on the Council‘s informal meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Thus far, it is difficult to name an exact date for the next ambassadorial meeting, because within the Alliance there has been a controversy on how fast the restoration of relations with Russia could proceed in the Council. The discussion at the Council‘s informal meeting was proof of that, Rogozin said.

"What NATO envoys said would sometimes sound absolutely different. There were outbreaks of wrath regarding Russia, covered with shallow diplomatic rhetoric, and there were quite constructive compliments, spoken in an allied-partnership tonality regarding the future of our relations," the Russian envoy said.

Rogozin linked the next meeting of the Russia-NATO Council directly with an informal meeting of NATO‘s foreign ministers in Brussels set for March 5.

The ambassadors of the NATO members-states must negotiate the organization of a fully-fledged Council meeting with the foreign ministers, with their direct bosses, Rogozin said. So, February is an unlikely time for the next meeting, he added. But the choice of the date is not so important in this case, since just a few weeks are involved here, he said. The Council will convene, if not in February then in March, said Rogozin