Russia's Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov arrived in Washington by invitation from his US counterpart Robert Gates. It is the first time, when the head of the Russian defense ministry was invited to visit the Pentagon. Serdyukov conducted three protocol meetings, including a tête-à-tête meeting with Gates.
Mr. Serdyukov was given a very warm and solemn welcome in the Pentagon, observers say. The USA's relations with Russia represent a personal interest for Robert Gates, experts believe. He had spent 27 years working at the CIA where he had to repeatedly analyze the situation in the Kremlin.
Gates and Serdyukov discussed various issues of military reforms and ways to expand defense cooperation between the two countries.
Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have signed a memorandum of understanding intended to boost military cooperation between the countries. The document, which replaces an outdated 1993 agreement, was signed during Serdyukov's two-day visit to Washington, the first in more than two years. The memorandum is intended to "bring defense and military cooperation in line with the new level of relations" between Russia and the United States," RIA Novosti reports.
Gates told a daily press briefing that he and his Russian counterpart were working hard to allow large-scale reforms in the two countries' armies. Serdyukov said in his turn that these reforms were "painful," but "absolutely necessary for the creation of a modern Army, the Army of the 21st century."
According to the source, Gates and Serdyukov also discussed the ratification of a new Russian-U.S. arms reduction treaty, issues related to the implementation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) and the U.S. missile defense system in Europe, as well as the Iranian nuclear issue, the situation in the Middle East, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia, RIA Novosti said.
It was reported several hours after the talks that the Pentagon was satisfied with the results of the meeting. A high-ranking Pentagon official said on conditions of anonymity that the two ministers discussed opportunities to bring new thinking in the defense system. The source confirmed that both the USA and Russia face common problems, that is why the program of Serdyukov's visit stipulates a deep insight into the functions of the US system.
The source also said that Robert Gates confirmed the USA's readiness to cooperate with Russia in the field of missile defense. There was no progress reached at this point, and the situation remains the same as it was for years. However, the problem will be discussed further on.
Serdyukov and Gates have either discussed or will be discussing the issues related to the deliveries of Russian arms to the United States, news agencies said. Russia reportedly has two large-scale projects in the USA: the development of a heavy aircraft on the base of An-24 Ruslan and the sale of Mi-17 helicopters to the US Navy. In winter, the offer to sell the Russian choppers to the States resulted in protests from Sikorsky Aircraft that claimed that the contract violated conditions of competitive struggle. As a result, the contract was delayed indefinitely.
Robert Gates earlier said that the Pentagon was interested in purchasing Mi-17 helicopters from Russia, because the choppers were very good for use in Afghanistan. Gates particularly said that the Pentagon would have to overcome political obstacles for that. The US defense secretary also said that he was impressed with the scale and the depth of reforms in Russia's armed forces. He stated that the efforts, which Russian defense officials take, coincide with the things, that he tries to do in the States.
Gates also said that he did not see a threat to the USA's security from Russia. The relations between Russia and the United States were developing normally, Gates also said. They are partners in some questions and rivals in others. The two countries cooperate in such important issues as the struggle against international terrorism and the Iranian nuclear program. Russia and the USA conduct joint military drills and cooperate in the field of supplies for US troops in Afghanistan.