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US overture after Putin ‘Cold War’ punch

Munich, Feb. 11 (AP): Nato nations must work in partnership with Russia on security matters, US defence secretary Robert Gates said today, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin blasted Washington’s foreign policy and accused it of fomenting a series of wars.

“We all face many common problems and challenges that must be addressed in partnership with other countries, including Russia,” Gates told a security forum of senior officials across the world. “One Cold War was quite enough.”

Yesterday, Putin told delegates that the Bush administration had “overstepped its national borders in every way” through its “unilateral, illegitimate” actions. In a harshly worded speech, Putin also blamed US policy for inciting other countries to seek nuclear weapons to defend themselves from an “almost uncontained use of military force”.

In the fiercest criticism of Washington’s policies during his seven years in office, Putin said it was destroying the international legal system by ignoring the UN and resorting to the unilateral use of force.

The issue of whether Washington’s policies were stoking a new Cold War has dominated the three-day gathering of 250 ministers, military and security officials from around the world.

Gates said Putin’s speech had reminded him of the Cold War period, but said it was time to move on. “Russia is a partner in endeavours,” he said. “I think no one wants a new Cold War with Russia.”

“But we wonder, too, about some Russian policies that seem to work against international stability, such as its arms transfers and its temptation to use energy resources for political coercion,” he said.

Gates noted that the war in Afghanistan was testing Nato’s ability to overcome a major global challenge.

“The challenge posed by violent extremism today is unlike anything the West has faced in many generations,” he said. “In many ways it is grounded in a profound alienation from the foundations of the modern world — religious toleration, freedom of expression and equality for women.”

But Viktor Ozerov, the head of the defence committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, questioned whether the US was seeking a new Cold War. Ozerov cited Gates’s comments to Congress last week in which he said the US could not predict developments in places like Russia, North Korea, China and Iran.

Ozerov also cited the so-called Jackson-Vanick amendment — which places restrictions on US relations with Russia — imposed in 1974 to expedite the emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union to Israel.

Despite efforts by the Bush administration, Congress has not yet repealed the amendment as it applies to Russia.

“When you say that we have to adopt the values of the West, we are prepared to move to them — but not all of them if such values say you can deliver military blows outside the resolutions of the UN Security Council,” Ozerov said.

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