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The Moscow Times, May 31, 2002

A Forum Argues Over Russia's Place

By Gregory Feifer

Experts gathering Thursday on the heels of three major international summits said the West's leading policymaking institutions must include Russia in a broad strategic framework if they want to successfully tackle the top global priority: terrorism. Despite that general consensus, there was stark disagreement on specifics at the two-day conference on Euro-Atlantic integration, organized by the Washington-based Euro-Atlantic Institute of International Integration Studies.

Robert Hunter, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, said Russia had made a "fundamentally important grand strategic decision" to engage with Western institutions since Sept. 11. "That's something we in the West must honor so that the differences of the past will be erased," he said.

Hunter said the arms treaty signed by Presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush and the Rome treaty boosting Russia's cooperation with NATO are steps in the right direction, "opening the perspective on the 21st century."

Sergei Rogov, director of Moscow's Institute for U.S. and Canada Studies, agreed. "Maybe one of the reasons why [integration] failed in the 1990s was that we didn't have a common enemy," he said, speaking about the threat of terrorists. But the economic agenda should get top priority, he said.

Strobe Talbott, head of Washington's Brookings Institution and Russia policy chief in President Bill Clinton's administration, said the progress made in recent weeks in the Russia-NATO relationship was a continuation of a path established in the 1990s, before the two sides fell out over NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

"I've been struck by the amnesia of commentators," he said in a video linkup from Washington. "But I understand the need for the [U.S. and Russian] administrations to emphasize what's new."

Most Russian participants conceded that Russia had no choice but to integrate. Deputy State Duma Speaker Vladimir Lukin said there were "endless debates and very big differences" concerning integration, but that "a choice must be made. My choice is that Russia should be part of a Euro-Atlantic civilization no less than the United States."

Lukin said Russia's decade-long policy of trying to balance U.S. power by advocating a multipolar world and seeking cooperation with states like China and Iran had led nowhere. "What dividends did we get? None that I can see."

But Lukin went on to question Western arguments for integration. He said NATO will become increasingly useless in the future and that Russia should strive to become an "organic 21st-century power," as China is doing.

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Russia - US Relations

The Moscow Times, May 31, 2002

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