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Powell says us not seeking to encircle russia { January 27 2004 }

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Powell Says U.S. Not Seeking to Encircle Russia
Tue January 27, 2004 11:59 AM ET

By Arshad Mohammed
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Secretary of State Colin Powell assured Russia Tuesday that the United States was not trying to surround it despite seeking temporary military bases in former Warsaw Pact countries.

Addressing a Russian fear of encirclement, Powell said the number of U.S. troops in Europe had fallen since the end of the Cold War and that military facilities under consideration in former members of the old Soviet-led alliance would be small.

"We may want to put some temporary facilities in some of the countries that used to be part of the Warsaw Pact," Powell told Ekho Moskvy radio in an interview.

"These would not be big bases of the kind that we had in Germany during the days of the Cold War. These might be small places where we could go and train for a brief period of time or use get to dangerous places, crisis places in Central Asia, the Persian Gulf, the Middle East," he said.

Powell spoke at the end of a two-day visit in which he made unusually blunt warnings about Russian democracy that reflected U.S. concerns the Kremlin was becoming increasingly autocratic.

Powell did not specify which former Warsaw Pact countries he was referring to. But former Pact member Poland -- now a member of the U.S.-led NATO alliance -- has launched talks with Washington to host U.S. military bases on its territory.

The United States began a diplomatic offensive in European capitals in December to push a redeployment strategy expected to involve closing bases in western Europe and reflect a greater NATO focus on the east and south.

"It is not essentially moving our army closer to the Russian Federation and people should not see it in that light," Powell said.

The presence of U.S. bases in the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and military trainers in Georgia, troubles some in the Russian security community who regard the area as part of Moscow's natural sphere of influence.


"Are we there to threaten Russia?" Powell asked a group of Russian rights activists. Are we pointing a dagger (at) the soft underbelly of Russia -- of course not."

Powell said U.S. troop levels in Europe were falling from 315,000 before the Soviet Union broke up to fewer than 100,000 and said its forces in Central Asia were fighting "terrorism."

Both sides said Powell's seven hours of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other officials Monday were friendly.

But in a front-page article in the Russian daily Izvestia on Monday, Powell raised questions about the rule of law, state influence over the media and what some analysts regard as Moscow's bullying of neighbors.

Tuesday, Powell said Washington was carefully watching the treatment of former Yukos oil company chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose October arrest on charges of fraud and tax evasion is widely regarded as politically motivated.

He said Putin had told him the Yukos case would be dealt with "in accordance with the rule of law -- that nobody was above the law or beneath the law."

Powell urged Moscow to find a political solution in Chechnya and to respect human rights in the region, where Russia is battling separatists.

He called Chechnya an "internal matter" for Russia, but added without elaborating that Washington was ready to play a more extensive role if asked by the parties.

Demonstrators protest election results in belarus { February 2006 }
Powell says us not seeking to encircle russia { January 27 2004 }
Us expands empire eastern europe { December 10 2003 }
Us may establish military bases in former soviet republics { January 27 2004 }

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