President Putin meets with NATO Secretary General in Kremlin

Expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation does not let us efficiently to counteract the threats of today, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday at the meeting in the Kremlin with Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General.

"Indeed, life confirms that such a mechanical expansion of the Alliance does not let us efficiently to counteract the threats, which we are faced with today. This expansion has not prevented the terrorist act in Madrid, helped in resolving problems of rehabilitation of Afghanistan," Mr. Putin said.

At the same time, "each country is entitled to chose the security-provision version, which it sees as optimal," noted the Russian president.

Mr. Putin hopes that the expansion of NATO will promote trust in Europe and become "a component, instrument for strengthening trust in the world." Vladimir Putin said that he welcomes the stay of Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in Moscow not only as the NATO secretary general but also as the chairman of the Russia-NATO Council. "I hope that this positive beginning, made two years ago with the signing on May 28 of the document on establishing the Russia-NATO Council, will build up," Mr. Putin said.

"For our part, we are going to do all for Russia-NATO relations to develop positively," he said.

In turn, the NATO secretary general congratulated Putin on his re-election for presidency at the March 14 elections and noted that he sees as his duty during his stay in the post to strengthen relations between Russia and the North Atlantic Alliance.

I assure you that it is my personal duty and goal to make NATO-Russia relations even stronger during my stay in the post, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said.

He noted the need to assert relations of irreplaceable partnership in cooperation between Russia and NATO. It is our duty further to build up such relations, he said.

I have come to Moscow to find out how we are to strengthen our partnership, especially in view of the second anniversary of existence of the Russia-NATO Council, and find fitting methods for such strengthening, he said.

As regards NATO's expansion, Mr. Scheffer noted that it is a matter of different kinds of psychology. It depends on the leaderships of Russia and NATO to convince that they are wrong about the expansion of NATO and prove it in practice, the NATO secretary general said.

He believes that it would be wrong to think that today's problems of terrorism, the situation in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan can be coped with single-handedly. It would be wrong to believe that we can do without each other, Mr. Scheffer said.

He noted that he quite understands the Russian psychology about expansion, i.e an ordinary man in the street might ask what will the expansion eventually lead to?

I'd like to say that we have much to do as regards public diplomacy to convince that neither the new members of NATO intend to locate appreciable forces in their territories, nor do they have ulterior motives, even intention to disregard clauses of the CFE treaty, although they are not its members.

The NATO secretary general set high store by the decision to send Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the April 2 sitting of the Russia-NATO Council. It means that you treat the Council as seriously as we do, he said.

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