5th Mar 2024

Russia tops Clinton's agenda in Europe

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton emphasized the importance of putting relations with Russia back on track, while reassuring Eastern Europeans of their security guarantees, at in informal dinner on Wednesday evening.

"We want to have a more robust and meaningful dialogue with Russia going forward on a range of issues," Ms Clinton told reporters travelling with her to Brussels.

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  • US wants a more "robust" relationship with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Finnish foreign minister Alexander Stubb, who also participated at the transatlantic dinner with Ms Clinton, urged the US and the EU to cooperate on developing relations with Russia, Yle.fi reports.

According to Mr Stubb, who last year chaired the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which includes Russia, there is a change underway in Russia that could open new opportunities for deeper cooperation. He said that Russia has recently given clear signals that it is ready for discussions in all arenas.

Meanwhile, Nato foreign ministers gathered in Brussels on Thursday are set to green-light the resumption of high-level meetings with Russia, suspended after Moscow's military incursion to Georgia in August last year.

"I hope for a positive outcome and a reengagement with Russia," Nato secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters early Thursday.

Security guarantees for Eastern Europe

Following revelations that the US administration is prepared to reconsider its planned missile defence shield in Europe if Russia engages in serious diplomacy towards Iran, Ms Clinton explained that the shield project is not off the table, but that Russia needs to be involved.

"Just as we had to build a mutual defence with Europe in the 20th century, we have to build it in the 21st century. It is my hope that we will persuade Russia to be part of that defence," she said.

Ms Clinton reiterated the US view that a missile shield was not aimed at Russia but at deterring Iran and that the two powers should work together.

"Iran poses a threat to Europe and Russia we think this is a very rich area for exploration and this is what we are going to do," she said.

The previous US administration last year signed formal agreements with the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic on installing elements of the missile defence shield, a move which prompted Moscow to use Cold-War rhetoric and threats.

Ms Clinton hailed the "courage and leadership" of both the Czech Republic and Poland in agreeing to have a missile defence system deployed on their soil.

"They recognize that there is a real potential future threat. They did not hide their heads in the sand. They said you know what, we see it as you see it."

As for Nato guarantees, especially to the Baltic states who feel threatened after the Russian incursion into Georgia last August, the alliance is preparing a renewed commitment on security of its members. This will be part of the declaration to be issued at a summit in April.

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