ITAR-TASS reports Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov and his U.S. counterpart Robert Gates will meet for a total of 5 hours today. And the Russian press service concludes:
“This is highly unusual and attests to the great significance the U.S. Defense Department attaches to the visit.”
Aside from all the customary ceremonies, there will be three sets of talks today. The morning session is dedicated to discussing military reform plans and defense spending on both sides. ITAR-TASS says the Americans consider this the most important topic from their viewpoint.
The press service quotes The New York Times saying the two men “simultaneously declared war on longstanding and ineffective bureaucratic organizations,” adding that they’ll find a common language as they compare their efforts.
A working lunch will be devoted to nuclear arms control and missile defense. RIA Novosti quoted a Defense Department spokesman who said you can’t meet Russians without discussing missile defense, but it won’t be the main topic of the visit. Today’s afternoon session will cover a variety of regional and global security problems. Serdyukov will visit an unspecified U.S. Army base as well as the Naval Academy.
In an interview published in today’s Kommersant, Gates said:
“I’ve attentively followed Defense Minister Serdyukov’s reform efforts. I have the impression that the scale and depth of the reforms he’s conducting correspond to what I’m trying to do in the U.S. The thing is in the coming years we don’t expect significant budget increases. Therefore, we have to decide how best to use the resources we have.”
“I know the Russian Defense Minister has an interest in how to select highly professional soldiers and how to keep them in the armed forces, how to exert command and control of the armed forces in order to strengthen national security. This is especially complicated in the face of economic problems standing before each of our countries.”
Apparently, Gates doesn’t understand precisely. The Defense Ministry already has an answer — to jettison its failed professional contract service program, return to reliance on conscripted soldiers, and see if they can train and retain some professional NCOs.
Asked if Russia’s a threat to the U.S. and about its new ballistic missiles, Gates replied:
“No. I don’t view Russia as a threat. We are partners in some areas and competitors in others. But we cooperate on important issues.”
“From the viewpoint of our program modernization the new SOA agreement is a great achievement. Just as the agreements which preceded it. They establish rules of the game which provide transparency and predictability. Modernization programs within the bounds of the new SOA agreement are absolutely normal. We’ll conduct our own modernization.
Asked about cooperation on missile defense and the Gabala radar specifically, Gates said the U.S. is interested in Gabala and in the possibility of establishing a missile launch data exchange center [JDEC] in Moscow.