U.S., Russia at Odds Over War on Terrorism
MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - Russia laid bare its differences with the
United States over the war on terrorism on Sunday, challenging
President Bush's attack on the "axis of evil" and accusing the West of
The cracks emerged at a security conference in Munich over the weekend
as Washington, ratcheting up its rhetoric against Iraq and Iran,
signaled it could take pre-emptive action.
U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the meeting
Saturday that countries tolerating terrorism would be held to account
and referred to the State of the Union address last week in which Bush
described Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil"
seeking weapons of mass destruction.
But Russia, which has better relations with all three, insists the
U.S.-led campaign against terrorism in Afghanistan must not be
expanded to other countries and has been increasingly irritated by the
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, in a blunt rebuff, told
Wolfowitz and the other delegates Sunday there was no evidence that
Iran had connections with terrorist organizations.
And he said Russia had its own list of "rogue states," naming U.S.
ally Saudi Arabia, which Moscow says helps fund Chechen separatists
fighting its own troops: "Not many people in the West like the fact
that we have some commercial ties with the countries which you
describe as rogue states," Ivanov said.
"Well, we don't like ... some of your allies like Saudi Arabia or Gulf
states who give finance to terrorist organizations."
A Russian deal to build Iran a nuclear power station has been a
regular target of criticism from Washington.
Ivanov also accused the West of "double standards" for failing to
condemn the Chechens as "terrorists" with the same vigor as they
pursue Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network.
He warned that disagreements over who was counted a terrorist could
undermine the U.S.-led coalition Russia has joined against the
Islamists that the United States blames for the September 11 attacks
on New York and Washington.
"What is our greatest concern today is the existence till the present
time of double political standards with regard to separatism,
religious extremism and fanaticism," Ivanov said.
Analysts say some U.S. policymakers, notably the hawkish Wolfowitz,
may want to exploit the political momentum at home generated by
outrage over the attacks to strike a decisive blow against Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein.
But Wolfowitz told reporters Saturday that his comments did not mean
the United States was about to strike Iraq.
The security conference came ahead of a meeting in Rome on Monday
between NATO allies and Russia to discuss terrorism.
The 19 countries of the alliance -- spurred by Moscow's help in the
war on terrorism, especially in providing intelligence -- agreed in
December to establish a forum "at 20" in which Russia could have a
full say in some security issues.
But with Bush's taking the war on terrorism to Afghanistan virtually
alone, doubts about NATO's continued relevance since the collapse of
the Soviet Union are being voiced again.
NATO Secretary General George Robertson, in a now familiar refrain,
argued that the Western defense alliance still had a central role in
dealing with the new, post-Cold War threats.
"Even superpowers need allies and coalitions to provide bases, fuel,
airspace and forces. And they need mechanisms and experience to
integrate these forces into a single coherent military capability," he
told the Munich conference.
However, he said NATO must evolve, and one of the biggest challenges
was the modernization of European and Canadian forces to ensure a fair
sharing of the burden with the United States.
APPEAL FOR CASH
Appealing to European finance ministers, Robertson noted that Europe
struggled to maintain its 50,000 peacekeeping troops in the Balkans
and said hardly any country could deploy effective forces in
significant numbers beyond its borders.
"American critics of Europe's military incapability are right," he
said. "So if we are to ensure that the United States moves neither
toward unilateralism or isolationism, all the non-U.S. allies --
Europeans and Canadians -- must show a new willingness to develop
effective crisis management capability."
The NATO chief also urged Washington to ease "unnecessary
restrictions" on foreigners acquiring American technology or face
problems forming military coalitions with European forces.