US official praises Russia for counter-terrorism cooperation, but notes areas of disagreement

A top State Department official praised Russia for its cooperation with the U.S. on counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing, but reflecting the complexity of their relations, he also noted what he described as its overbearing attitudes toward some of its neighbors.

Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns described Moscow as one of the "closest partners" of the United States in efforts to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

But he also listed a host of issues on which the two countries are at odds, such as its threat to target Poland and the Czech Republic if they agree to host U.S. missile defense bases.

He spoke Wednesday at a meeting of the Atlantic Council, which advocates close ties between the United States and Europe.

Burns rejected as "extraordinarily unwise" a speech by President Vladimir Putin earlier this month in which he said the United States "has overstepped its national borders in every way" and is fostering a global arms race.

Burns said there is no basis for Russian hostility toward NATO. "Russia has to understand that NATO is not directed against Russia but is a force for peace and security," he said.

He added that Russian attitudes notwithstanding, "NATO will continue to exist. NATO will continue to grow."

Burns listed a number of challenges that NATO must overcome. Too few of the European allies, he said, are willing to commit forces to the war zone in the southern region of Afghanistan.

The alliance also must do more, he said, to confront problems in both Iran and Iraq and in Lebanon. In addition, the list included the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and "the myriad problems of Africa," notably Darfur and Somalia. Finally, he said, NATO must do more to ensure that U.N. peacekeeping operations are more effective and to combat transnational problems such as climate change, narcotrafficking and trafficking in persons.

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