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Primakov's View of the World

Prague, March 6 (RFE/RL) -- Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov has given a wide-ranging interview to the newspaper Izvestia, in which he defined Moscow's foreign policy goals and warned the West that Russia intends to play a more active role in international diplomacy.

In the interview, which was published today, Primakov said the goal of Russian foreign policy should be to defend the country's interests "more vigorously and effectively" without getting into a new "Cold War" with the West. He said Russia had to "pursue the foreign policy of a great state in order to "extinguish the hot spots existing in the world" and in order to create "the best possible conditions for domestic (Russian) development."

Primakov, who has been in office for two months, also said Russia had bent too far in the West's direction after the fall of Communism. He said Russia could not form any "strategic alliances" with its "former Cold War adversaries," but instead would strive for an "equitable partnership." He said Russia would have "civilized" partnerships with most countries and "privileged" partnerships with others, although he declined to name them.

Primakov said Russia had a useful "counterweight" role to play in world affairs, but added that he would "diplomatically avoid naming the state in question" which Moscow could counter. But Primakov said that in the Middle East, for example, "countries which believe that the United States is advancing the process of peaceful settlement (wanted Russia's) active participation in the peace process."

Primakov stressed again that NATO's expansion was "not in Russia's interest," but he conceded that Moscow would not impose a "veto" on any enlargement. He did warn, however, that the Russian government would be forced to increase its defense spending to counter NATO expansion. He said Moscow was "not so primitive as to believe that an expanding NATO would immediately be used to strike against Russia." But he also said that"if tactical missiles with nuclear warheads were to be deployed on the territory of new NATO member states, these missiles would have flight times equal to those of the Pershing-2 missiles destroyed in the past" under disarmament treaties. He said the Russian military would then press for for remilitarization, to which the Russian government would have to agree.

Primakov reiterated that relations with other CIS countries are a priority for Russia. He denied any "imperialist" ambitions on Moscow's part, saying the impetus for re-integration came "from all sides," not just from Russia. In fact, Primakov noted, "many people in Moscow's economic ministries think that economic reform should be carried out purely on Russian territory." Primakov said he "totally" disagreed and added that the integration process was a natural one, which he he said was often misinterpreted in the West. He compared it to Western European moves toward integration in the 1960s and '70s, which he said had been misinterpreted at the time by Moscow as an imperialist plot.

Primakov promoted closer links with Central Asia, saying "Russia could indeed be the locomotive for integration for CIS countries in the Asian sector." He said he was "not so critical (in his attitude) to the state of affairs in Central Asia." Primakov said he did not think there could be "any question of some kind of revival of feudalism there." He added that a "democratic process is taking place in Central Asia too. Maybe not at such a rapid pace, but that, it seems to me, is only natural." In a dig at reformers throughout the CIS, Primakov said "forcing the pace does not always lead to good results, even in other parts of the former Soviet Union."

On a personal note, Primakov said that his four years as head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service had provided him with "essential information," which he added he was "using even now as Foreign Minister."