February 11, 2010 / 6:36 PM / 10 years ago

Albright says Russia has nothing to fear from NATO

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright deployed charm and humor as she tried to convince a dubious Russia on Thursday that NATO is not its adversary.

Madeleine Albright (R), former U.S. Secretary of State and head of an international panel that is working to update NATO's mission statement, shakes hands with First Deputy Speaker of the Russian Duma Lyubov Sliska during their meeting at the Russian parliament in Moscow, February 11, 2010. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Albright, who heads a panel helping chart NATO’s future, spoke a few days after Russia adopted a new military doctrine that put the Western alliance top of a list of security threats.

“This is a new NATO... Its enemy is not Russia,” she told students at an elite Moscow university specializing in international relations.

NATO members have often delivered that message, but Russians remain skeptical, angered by the U.S.-led defense alliance’s eastward expansion since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Efforts to improve ties were badly hurt by Moscow’s 2008 war with Georgia.

Albright peppered her speech with personal anecdotes from dealings with Saddam Hussein to describing how she chose her signature brooches to reflect moods or political messages.

Pointing to a metallic dove on her left lapel, she said: “I come in peace.”

The military doctrine approved by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last week identifies NATO expansion to Russia’s borders as one of the main external threats and calls U.S. plans to create an anti-missile shield in Europe a concern.

Albright’s assurances on Russian soil come after NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the treatment of NATO expansion as a threat did not reflect the real world.

“I don’t know how many times we have to repeat that, but it (NATO) is not a threat to Russia,” Albright said. “It is not against Russia.”

Albright also met with Russian lawmakers and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The top U.S. diplomat from 1997-2001 under President Bill Clinton, Albright chairs a group of experts drawing up a new NATO Strategic Concept, outlining the alliance’s future role, that is due to be approved at a November summit.

NATO, which groups 26 European nations, Canada and the United States, has reacted skeptically to Russia’s new doctrine, seeing the Russian plan as an attempt to divide the alliance.

Reacting to comments last week by a senior Russian diplomat that his country was not consulted in NATO plans to develop closer ties with China, India, Pakistan and Russia for global security, Albright said cooperation was key.

“It’s about partnerships and common concerns,” Albright said, adding that NATO hoped “the Russians will join us” on imposing tougher sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman, editing by Paul Taylor

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