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Ischinger: Russia Could be Ready to Fix Relations With West

Deutsche Welle spoke with Wolfgang Ischinger, organizer of the annual Munich Security Conference. He was optimistic about the future of Russian-European relations, and said energy will be a key discussion point.

A Russian soldier uses binoculars to look across the Afghan border

Russia is looking to better its relationship with the US and NATO

Wolfgang Ischinger was Germany's ambassador to the United States and then to the United Kingdom. He is also the Global Head of Government Relations at financial services group Allianz SE, in Munich.

Deutsche Welle: What can you tell us about the European security issues? What are the topics on the agenda?

Wolfgang Ischinger: On European security, one of the issues that will be discussed is NATO's role in Europe. Are we on the right track with the NATO enlargement policy? Can we define NATO's enlargement ambitions in a way that is compatible with Russia's concerns that NATO might be, in the Russian view, trying to encircle Russia? That's a big issue.

A second one, of course, is related to energy. We have in Munich people representing those who supply energy, like Russia. We have people who allow energy to be transported across their territory, such as Ukraine, and, of course, we have those governments that are consumers of energy and representatives of companies, which are involved in supplying us with energy.

Wolfgang Ischinger

Wolfgang Ischinger

There has been a lot of friction in the past due to American plans to install a missile-defense shield in Eastern Europe, and so forth. Now we have the new US president saying he wants to reduce the US nuclear arsenal by 80 percent. Are we witnessing a new quality to the US-Russian relationship?

I certainly hope so, and you're absolutely right, the signals that we're all picking up not only from Washington but also from Moscow, appear to demonstrate that there is a willingness on both sides to kick-start the overdue discussion about further reductions in strategic launchers.

Many of us who've been involved in these discussions in the last years and decades believe that it should be possible to reduce the numbers from about 2,000 to 1,000 -- or even less. That would allow Russia and the United States to start a dialogue that I hope will then include conventional arms control in Europe where the CFE treaty is still waiting to be ratified by all of us: by the Russians, by us in NATO, etc.

We also hope that in this context projects such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which has been lingering for the last few years, can be revived and hopefully brought to a successful conclusion. That is a most important project ... if we want to make sure that over the coming years we're not going to see more nuclear powers. And I'm not only talking about Iran, but Iran is, of course, one of the more pressing and urgent issues in this context.

One of the more surprising developments has been an announcement by Russia to allow the United States access to its territory to supply NATO troops and its own troops in Afghanistan. Does this mean we are going to see Russia joining the so-called war on terror?

Well it certainly means that Russia understands that what we're trying to achieve in Afghanistan is also in Russia's interest. Having a stable country, which is not going to continue to be one of the world's biggest drug exporters and a source of terrorist activity, has got to be a primary concern of Russia, just as it is a primary concern to us here in the West.

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