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Interfax, February 10, 2003

Senior MP mulls Russian role in light of US-Europe standoff.

Interview with Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Vladimir Lukin (YABLOKO)

Moscow, 10 February: Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma Vladimir Lukin of the Yabloko faction has suggested urgently organizing a top-level NATO-Russia meeting.

Russia today "can and must play the role coordinator for the Euro-Atlantic community, and Russian diplomacy should focus on putting forward ideas to help find a common position for continental Europe and America, without hurting one another's dignity," Lukin said in a Monday [10 February] interview with Interfax.

The parliamentarian pointed to the serious crisis in relations between Europe and America - "it is probably the first time since World War II that relations between them have become this tense". The problem is not based on individual disagreements and not even the existence of different positions regarding Iraq: "the problem is attributable to an absolutely different understanding of how international relations should be arranged", he said.

It would be absolutely wrong and counterproductive for Moscow to gamble on these disagreements - "This would be a very short-sighted course of action for Russia," Lukin said. Regarding Iraq,

differences in the positions of the USA and a number of leading European countries are in fact not that dramatic, he noted. "The US standpoint is the following: if Iraq does not disarm, there will be war, while Russia's and Europe's position is that there will be no war if Iraq disarms," Lukin noted. It is quite possible to reach a compromise between these two standpoints and "Russia must exploit this great diplomatic opportunity", he added.

The participants in a hypothetical NATO-Russia meeting could prepare two scenarios of action:the first scenario would provide for Iraq's full disarmament. "This would be a positive programme, but, naturally, it can be worked out on the basis of international expert opinion," Lukin said. The second scenario would presume that "Iraq evades disarmament", which would sanction the use of armed force against that country, he said. In any case, both programmes must be approved by the UN, which would not be difficult if the NATO-Russia summit reached a relevant agreement beforehand.

"If this course is taken, Russia would play a very important role in overcoming one of the largest crises in the world and would de facto become an exclusively significant component in the system of new international relations," Lukin said.


See also:

Russia and NATO

Interfax, February 10, 2003

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