Russia wants deal with NATO on troop deployment caps: report

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Russia wants NATO to refrain from deploying "substantial" troops in the military bloc's new member states and has drafted a legally binding agreement to that effect, a report said on Wednesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov handed the draft to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen last December but the two sides have been unable to agree a definition of "substantial combat forces," Kommersant daily said.

"NATO forces are modernising and therefore the military situation in the Western direction for us has changed," Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as telling the newspaper.

"So if there is no threat of a conflict, let's put on paper something that would create certain military guarantees for us."

The agreement would stipulate the deployment of forces in the bloc's new members such as Slovenia and Croatia, the report said.

A source in the NATO headquarters in Brussels confirmed to the newspaper that the bloc had received Russia's proposal but said it was unclear whether it would lead to a firm agreement because there was no agreement between the two sides on the number of troops in question.

Moscow's NATO ambassador Dmitry Rogozin told Kommersant that the term "substantial combat forces" could mean the permanent or temporary deployment of a manoeuvre brigade, helicopter battalion or an air regiment.

It could also refer to the deployment of more than 41 battle tanks, 188 armoured vehicles or 24 fighter jets and attack helicopters, among other forces.

"Our main idea is to turn political obligations into legal ones," Rogozin said, adding Russia itself would not be subject to the treaty since it was not expanding westwards.

NATO at a summit in Lisbon on November 19-20 is set to consider the bloc's new strategic concept and also discuss setting up a joint alliance missile shield.

Russian President Dmity Medvedev last week agreed to participate in the summit, even though he stressed Moscow needed to hear more about the idea of the missile shield.

Russia and Western nations remain divided over the disarmament of conventional weapons in Europe, the situation in Georgia following the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war and NATO's eastward enlargement.

Kommersant, citing sources at the foreign ministry, said Rasmussen could visit Moscow on November 5.

© 2010 AFP

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