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RUSSIA - March 20 - Moscow Responds To US Attacks On Iran Arms.

The Foreign Ministry issued a strongly worded response to an interview published in The Sunday Telegraph in Britain in which US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, used the most trenchant language yet employed by senior Bush aides to complain of Moscow's role in providing ballistic-missile technology to so-called rogue states such as Iran. (The interview marked the second time in recent weeks that Rumsfeld openly criticised Moscow's proliferation record. It comes as the Bush administration is said to be reviewing whether to continue a policy of high-level engagement and co-operation with Russia or to significantly downgrade the relationship to both reflect Russia's diminished status as a great power and show Washington's approval of its opposition to American policy initiatives in missile defence and non-proliferation. "Russia is an active proliferator", Rumsfeld said in remarks to Winston S. Churchill, grandson of the late British prime minister, who conducted the tape-recorded interview at the Pentagon. "It has been providing countries with assistance in these areas in ways that complicate the problem for the United States and Western Europe" and "we all have to live with the results of that proliferation". Wolfowitz was more caustic in his comments, saying of the Russians: "These people seem to be willing to sell anything to anyone for money. It recalls Lenin's phrase that the capitalists will sell the very rope from which we will hang them".

He went on to say that Russia needed to be "confronted with a choice". He said Moscow "can't expect to do billions of dollars worth of business and aid and all that with the United States and its allies", while at the same time selling "obnoxious stuff that threatens our people and our pilots and our sailors". Russia, along with China and North Korea, has provided assistance to Iran's military and ballistic missile programmes and Moscow is currently constructing a civilian nuclear power station in Iran, which Washington opposes. In the wake of the Soviet collapse, the Clinton administration carried out extensive programmes of diplomatic exchanges, joint commissions and financial aid, one goal of which was to persuade Moscow to limit the sale of weapons and dangerous technologies to rogue states. Though there were a number of successes, the record was mixed, according to any specialists, especially in the case of Iran, where Russia sees an important market for conventional arms and for its civilian nuclear power industry). The Foreign Ministry says: "We are once again, without proof, being labelled practically the main proliferator of weapons of mass destruction". It says the remarks be the Pentagon officials "run counter to the public position of the new American president, namely that Russia and the United States are not adversaries and do not threaten each other".

It accuses Rumsfeld of slinging "these accusations in the spirit of the Cold War" as a means to help sell "the necessity" for erecting an anti-missile shield over the US. (For the first time publicly, Rumsfeld indicated the Pentagon was now considering a much broader missile defence system that could attack "rogue" missiles shortly after they were launched, in mid-flight and as they re-entered the atmosphere. He told Churchill Pentagon planners were studying these missile defence schemes "unconstrained" by the 1972 treaty that bans them, adding: "Eventually one would anticipate that you would not be a single system but a layered system with flexibility and some redundancy". And when the time comes for Bush to decide whether to pull out of the 1972 treaty, "you have to start consultations with your friends, allies and ultimately with Russia".

In his remarks on proliferation, Wolfowitz rejected the view that the US gained important influence over Russian policy through extensive diplomatic and financial assistance started at the end of the Cold War. US aid should provide leverage, he said. "But we seem, for reasons that I find hard to explain, reluctant to use that leverage, and it's almost as though, at least for a long period of time, Russian weakness gave them leverage on us". His remarks reflect one side of the debate in Washington that a harder line is warranted against Russia under Pres. Putin, who has pursued a more vigorous policy than his predecessor in seeking to restore Russia's arms and nuclear power industries).
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 24, 2001
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