Russia, NATO must overcome historic distrust: Medvedev

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday said his country's ties with NATO have to overcome years of historic distrust, as he prepares to attend the Western alliance's summit.

"Relations between Russia and NATO have always been difficult, maybe it's a legacy plus emotions, feelings, people's perceptions," he told foreign policy experts and dignitaries at his Gorky residence just outside Moscow.

"We all have some historical background."

"Undoubtedly, this weighs down our relations including with NATO. In Russia, there is a feeling that NATO is a kind of aggressive factor in relation to Russia. Perhaps it is misguided thinking in many ways."

Medvedev also lamented that Russia was often seen in the West as "a country where there can never be democracy, which will always be committed to authoritarian principles and which does not want to develop with the rest of the world."

The Kremlin chief was meeting with members of the Munich Conference on Security Policy including Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US national security adviser in the Jimmy Carter administration, Adam Rotfeld, a former Polish foreign minister, and Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German deputy foreign minister.

In 2007, Medvedev's predecessor at the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, stunned the West when he attacked the United States as a reckless "unipolar" power speaking at the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy in Germany.

On Tuesday, Medvedev said he would attend next month's NATO summit in Lisbon as he seeks to promote what he thinks should be a common European security strategy uniting the continent once split between the West and the Soviet bloc under a joint strategic vision.

"Your arrival at the summit in Lisbon could be the starting point in creating a new cooperative European example of building a new security," Rotfeld told Medvedev.

In a possible sign that Medvedev's ideas for the common security architecture may be gaining traction, Brzezinski also praised his proposal.

"I also endorse very much your comments on the indivisibility geopolitically of the security processes in Europe.

"The interconnection between Europe, Russia and America... is a fundamental fact of life."

Medvedev first proposed his common European security plan in 2008 but that idea had earlier received lukewarm support in the West.

He added that Medvedev had the opportunity to go down history as "a transformational president."

"You are particularly admired in America as you have been so explicit in saying publicly and with real conviction that modernisation of Russia, a major commitment, is profoundly connected with democratisation of Russia," Brzezinski said.

"These processes go hand-in-hand."

© 2010 AFP

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