MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is demanding that any new cooperation deal with NATO include limits on the number of troops posted in the alliance’s new member states in central Europe, a leading Russian daily reported on Wednesday.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is to attend NATO’s annual summit next month in a bid to revive ties. Russia has said it wants assurances about a proposed U.S. missile shield in Europe, while NATO says it wants more cooperation on Afghanistan.
But Moscow also has demanded a ban on the deployment of “significant military forces” in the states that joined NATO since the end of the Cold War, the Kommersant daily reported, citing Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
The demand was contained in a draft Russia-NATO cooperation agreement that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov handed to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in December, the report said.
“We want to secure a situation in which the level of predictability of military activities in countries that recently joined NATO be higher than it is now,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying.
The proposal would likely spark opposition in former Eastern Bloc countries in central Europe, including Poland and the Czech Republic, which joined NATO in part as a guarantee against Russian domination.
Russia’s envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin told the newspaper that Moscow wanted the troop limits as a way to make non-aggression agreements already secured on a political level legally binding.
But NATO has been cool on the proposition, in part because of the vagueness of the term “significant forces,” the report said.
“Lavrov proposed we sign the legally binding agreement you are referring to. But it is difficult right now to say what will become of it,” Kommersant quoted an unnamed NATO official as saying. “Countries must have the right to self defense.”
NATO head Rasmussen is expected to visit Moscow before the NATO summit on November 19-20 in Lisbon, which Medvedev will attend, the report said.
Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Michael Roddy