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Former U.S. top officials call for renewed ties with Russia

The Partnership for a Secure America, a non-profit organization, has released a bipartisan roadmap for the Obama administration to renew cooperation between the U.S. and Russia.
MOSCOW, February 27 (RIA Novosti) -- The Partnership for a Secure America, a non-profit organization, has released a bipartisan roadmap for the Obama administration to renew cooperation between the U.S. and Russia.

The statement was signed by over 30 former high-ranking foreign policy and national security officials, including nine ex-senators, two representatives, four defense secretaries, two national security advisors, and four ambassadors to Russia.

The statement entitled, The U.S. and Russia: A Window of Opportunity, said that both countries "share a wide range of critical interests," and even though "Russia's heavy hand at home and with its neighbors is troubling," these concerns "must be addressed through effective U.S.-Russian dialogue, not an escalating war of words."

The statement outlined a number of concrete steps the Obama administration could take to restore mutual confidence and trust.

The U.S. politicians, in particular, recommended inviting Russia "to participate fully in a collective security strategy, beginning with peace and stability for Afghanistan; securing Russian cooperation to establish an effective defense against missile attacks for Europe while providing Russia with security assurances;" and "advancing the U.S.-Russia dialogue on arms control and non-proliferation, and working to extend or replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START)."

Other steps include "reiterating U.S. support for Russia's WTO candidacy, calling on Congress to repeal the 'Jackson-Vanik' trade sanctions, and encouraging other member states to offer Russia a clear path to membership based on its commitment to the WTO Charter."

The roadmap also highlighted the need to expand U.S.-Russia dialogue on energy and climate change, "to include seeking common ground on environmental concerns and new oil and gas pipelines to guarantee reliable energy supplies for the entire North Atlantic region."

It said that if these steps "are met by Russia with similar good faith and pragmatism, Presidents Medvedev and Obama, as new leaders, can seize a unique opportunity to renew cooperation based on mutual trust and shared interests."

The Partnership for a Secure America (PSA) describes its mission as "recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy."

By a quirk, the statement was released almost at the same time as a former Russian presidential aide, known for his criticism of current Kremlin policy, hit out at the U.S. administration's intention to "reset" ties with Moscow.

Speaking in English on Wednesday before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs at a hearing on U.S.-Russia ties, Andrei Illarionov suggested that Washington's desire to improve relations with Moscow had been met with "joy and satisfaction" by what he called 'the Russian Chekists," a reference to the former Soviet secret police organization, a forerunner to the KGB.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said earlier this month in Munich that relations with Russia would be given a new start after years of tension between Moscow and the administration of former U.S. president George W. Bush.

"It is time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia," Biden said.

The Kremlin critic told the House that Biden's so-called Munich statement had been interpreted by the Russian leadership as the acceptance by the U.S. of "the idea of the de-facto restoration of the Russian Chekists' influence and power over the post-Soviet space."

Illarionov, who served for three years as an economic policy advisor during Vladimir Putin's presidency, is currently a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, Washington, DC, and president of the Institute of Economic Analysis in Moscow. He resigned from his position as economic policy advisor in 2005, saying "the country has stopped being free and democratic."

He also said Biden's statement was "not even an appeasement policy that is so well known to all of us by another Munich decision in 1938. It is a surrender. A full, absolute and unconditional surrender to the regime of the secret police officers, Chekists, Mafiosi, and bandits in today's Russia."

Illarionov also issued a warning on the consequences of such a "surrender."

"Those who retreat and surrender will get not peace, but war, war with unpredictable and nasty results," he said.

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