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Rice to grapple with missile shield, CFE, Kosovo in Moscow

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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives in Moscow Monday for talks on a number of issues which have recently soured bilateral relations, including a proposed U.S. missile shield in Europe, independence for Kosovo, and an alleged clampdown on democracy in Russia.
MOSCOW, May 14 (RIA Novosti) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives in Moscow Monday for talks on a number of issues which have recently soured bilateral relations, including a proposed U.S. missile shield in Europe, independence for Kosovo, and an alleged clampdown on democracy in Russia.

"Russia and the United States have many issues that we either cooperate on, or need to review our positions on," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said in an interview with RIA Novosti on the eve of Rice's visit. "These include economic, political and humanitarian issues."

Ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin surprised the West with his harsh criticism of U.S. foreign policy in a February 10 speech in Munich, Russia has strongly opposed U.S. plans to deploy a missile base in Poland and a missile early-warning radar in the Czech Republic.

Moscow has repeatedly expressed concern over the U.S. initiative, warning it could be a "destabilizing factor" in Europe and could threaten Russia's national security.

In addition, President Putin proposed previously that Russia should unilaterally suspend the implementation of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) until other parties to the treaty ratify the document.

"I think it is necessary to announce a moratorium on Russia's implementation of the CFE treaty until all NATO countries ratify it and start to strictly adhere to it, as Russia does today unilaterally," Putin said in his annual state of the nation address to parliament.

The CFE was concluded in 1990 by the then-22 NATO members and the now defunct Warsaw Pact to enhance arms control in Europe, and amended in 1999 to take post-Cold War realities into account.

NATO countries have not ratified the new version, demanding that Russia first withdraw from Soviet-era bases in Georgia and Moldova under the so-called Istanbul Agreements.

Putin also suggested that Russia might consider leaving the CFE treaty if talks with NATO countries show no visible progress in the implementation of the treaty in the future.

Another major challenge for Rice during her two-day visit to Moscow will be convincing the Russian leadership to support a draft UN Security Council resolution on Kosovo.

The draft resolution calling for the independence of Yugolsavia's breakaway province was submitted by France, the U.K., Germany and the United States. Russia is categorically opposed to the independence plan.

According to Russian experts, the upcoming visit of the U.S. State Secretary could prevent further deterioration of relations between the two countries.

"We are expecting a serious discussion on serious problems, both from the perspective of our own security, and of European security," Sergei Kislyak said.

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