Chechnya violence hijacks trilateral seaside summit
Russian President Dimitry Medvedev pushed for a common European security strategy Tuesday with the French and German leaders, as militant violence in Chechnya overshadowed their talks.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy hosted Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the seaside French resort of Deauville for talks on the European security and Moscow's ties with NATO, but the trilateral summit ended up being hijacked by news of militants who stormed parliament in Chechnya.
The militants' bloody standoff with security forces is a throwback to the 1990s, when Russia fought two wars with separatists there, and a blow to the prestige of the Kremlin, which claims relative normalcy has returned to the North Caucasus.
The fierce standoff in Chechnya appeared to be an unfortunate diversion from the Kremlin's goal to promote Medvedev's vision for a new security architecture in Europe that would at last put Moscow and western Europe in the same camp, 20 years after the end of the Cold War.
The Kremlin said in a terse statement to reporters in Deauville that Medvedev had been informed of the efforts to conduct a special operation "to eliminate militants."
The Deauville talks are not expected to lead to any major announcements but they have been billed as a step towards a new pan-European security partnership.
Supporters of the plan -- which has been endorsed in various forms by all three leaders in the past -- hope to welcome Moscow into the Euro-Atlantic community and build a common defence from "Vancouver to Vladivostok".
"We will discuss whether it is possible for Russia and NATO to cooperate better, because the era of the Cold War is definitely over," Merkel said on Saturday in her weekly video message.
"The Russian president has proposed a common security architecture. He is working step-by-step to define this architecture -- of course in a spirit of partnership of all European countries with Russia," she said.
Medvedev first proposed his plan for the new European security treaty in 2008 but it has received lukewarm support so far.
"We would like that this document too and other efforts which our country undertakes in the security sphere will find a worthy response in the world," Medvedev said at the Kremlin ahead of the summit this week.
Medvedev's top foreign policy advisor said last week that closer ties with NATO would be on the agenda in Deauville, including Russia's long-term goal of a formal new joint European security framework.
"Promoting Dmitry Medvedev's initiative -- the European security treaty -- is naturally of priority significance for us," Sergei Prikhodko told reporters at the Kremlin ahead of the summit.
NATO will unveil its new security concept next month at its summit in Lisbon, and Western leaders hope Medvedev will confirm in Deauville that he will attend the meeting and give his support to their vision.
Russia confirmed it had received an invitation to attend the summit but analysts say the Kremlin is concerned about the possible outcome of those talks and Medvedev has yet to say whether he plans to go.
Some NATO allies, in particular the former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe, are suspicious of their neighbour, pointing to the 2008 war in Georgia.
But while Russia's ties with NATO as a whole have often been difficult, the Kremlin has proved adept at dealing directly one-on-one with European powers, in particular France and Germany.
Medvedev and Sarkozy were also expected to face questions on whether they had agreed a deal for France to sell Russia four modern warships, a potential contract that has raised concerns among some of Paris' allies.
© 2010 AFP