Russia Today
Nato chief says relations with Russia not ideal

ROME, Jan 14, 2000 -- (Reuters) NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson acknowledged on Thursday the alliance's relationship with Russia was not ideal but said last year's Balkan conflict had brought the world's major powers closer together.

"We brought Russia on board," Robertson said in a speech at a conference on conflict prevention in Rome. "When Russia realized that NATO was determined to prevail, Russia became part of the diplomatic solution...

"Our relationship is still not where we would like it to be but I would maintain our years of dialogue have made a difference," he added.

"Unlike the early 20th century, when the Balkans were Europe's powderkeg, Kosovo saw all major powers finally acting on the same side..."

Robertson, who took over as NATO chief from Spaniard Javier Solana in October, said the Kosovo conflict early in the year should not be seen as a model for the future.

"Ideally the future should be characterized by more prevention and less intervention," he said.

Russia, with traditional ties to Orthodox Slavs in Serbian-led Yugoslavia, bitterly opposed NATO's air war against the Balkan state that forced Belgrade to halt mass repression of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians.

But Russia played a key role in brokering a Serbian military withdrawal from Kosovo and has contributed to the U.N.-backed Kosovo peacekeeping operation even while remaining at odds with NATO on key political issues.

Since then, Russia's offensive in the breakaway region of Chechnya has put strain on the West's relations with Moscow.

Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said in December his country's relations with the alliance had "apparently entered a new phase of getting colder" and accused NATO of talking to Russia over the Chechen conflict from a position of force.

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