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Russia: Putin Says Not Interested In NATO Membership

Moscow, 22 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin today said Russia is not interested in NATO membership but wants to improve cooperation with the alliance in the changed global environment. Putin told senior lawmakers at a Kremlin meeting that Russia is a self-sufficient state which is capable of assuring its own defenses. But he said that after the September terrorist attacks on the United States and the new threat of international terrorism, Russia was ready for "positive and constructive" cooperation with NATO.

Russia is ready to coordinate its position with NATO on key issues, "as much [as] the North-Atlantic Alliance itself is ready for it," but the efforts to find common grounds "must take due account to our national interests," Putin said, according to ITAR-TASS.

"Russia will not be queuing up for NATO accession," he added. "Our economy, science and technology, our human resources, military potential, and territorial integrity make us a self-sufficient country capable of ensuring its national defense."

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, in Russia for two days of talks, said after today's meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov that Russia and NATO have established a new type of cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

"We have a new kind of cooperation at the moment against a common threat, a common enemy and we stand shoulder to shoulder against international terrorism," the NATO secretary-general said. "I believe that we can build on that new revitalized cooperation and produce a relationship that is in the interest of Russia and in the interest of NATO and the NATO countries."

Robertson also said that he could envisage Russia having an equal political voice in the alliance in certain areas.

Ivanov said he had given a positive response to a proposal by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to create a new joint council opening new possibilities for decision-making and joint action in trouble spots of common concern like the Balkans.