Defence Ministers of Russia, Britain seeking broader cooperation

Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov of Russia and British Secretary of Defence Geoffrey Hoon are willing to promote Russo-British cooperation in the defence area. They made it clear at a press conference Tuesday, following a no-necktie meeting behind closed doors.

In the modern-day environment, the importance of Russo-British cooperation goes far beyond the framework of their bilateral relationship, Mr. Ivanov pointed out. More active interaction between the two countries can play a significant role in consolidating international efforts against new challenges and threats to global stability, he believes.

The British Defense Minister said that he and his Russian counterpart had discussed the settlement of regional crises, the fight against international terrorism, and ways to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. They also touched upon the latest developments in Afghanistan, the Indian-Pakistani conflict, the peacekeeping operation in the Balkans, the development of Russia-NATO relations in the format of 20, and the imminent isolation of Kaliningrad (Russia's westernmost enclave on the Baltic Coast) from the rest of the country as a result of the EU expansion.

Russia and the UK have been effectively developing their naval cooperation in recent years, the Russian Defense Minister noted. However, he expressed dissatisfaction with how the air and ground forces of the two nations had been cooperating. According to Mr. Ivanov, plans for cooperation between the Russian and the British defence ministries were outlined at today's meeting.

Mr. Hoon said the UK was going to carry on with its program to facilitate the social adaptation of discharged career officers in Russia. Some 15,000 discharged Russian officers have completed a social adaptation course by now.

To quote Mr. Ivanov, "This program suits Russia all right; both ministries are working on a document that will enable [them] to continue it beyond 2003, maybe in a wider context."

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