Gates, Serdyukov Renew U.S.-Russia Military Ties

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and Russ­ian Defense Min­is­ter Ana­toliy Serdyukov opened the door to mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tions between their coun­tries that have been most­ly closed for the past two years, Pen­ta­gon offi­cials said today.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, left, and Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdykov, right
Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, left, and Russ­ian Defense Min­is­ter Ana­toly Serdykov, right, sign a mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing at the Pen­ta­gon, Sept. 15, 2010. The doc­u­ment pro­vides a frame­work for a vari­ety of coop­er­a­tive, mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary pro­grams to be under­tak­en dur­ing the com­ing year.
DoD pho­to by R. D. Ward
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Gates host­ed five hours of meet­ings with Serdyukov today, fol­lowed by a pri­vate river­boat din­ner mark­ing Serdyukov’s first vis­it to the Unit­ed States and the first time a Russ­ian defense min­is­ter has vis­it­ed the Pen­ta­gon since 2005, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell said.

Gates last vis­it­ed Rus­sia in March 2008, but U.S.-Russian rela­tions cooled lat­er that year after Rus­sia invad­ed neigh­bor­ing Geor­gia. Today’s meet­ings went a long way to re-estab­lish mil­i­tary ties, accord­ing to a senior Pen­ta­gon offi­cial who took part in today’s meet­ings and spoke on back­ground.

Today’s biggest advance was “the renew­al of dia­logue,” the offi­cial said.

“It sounds pro­ce­dur­al, but this is some­thing that has been miss­ing in the last few years,” he said. “These are impor­tant con­fi­dence-build­ing steps to over­com­ing a lega­cy of sus­pi­cion and mis­trust that has not been elim­i­nat­ed between our defense establishments& ldquo;

Gates hopes today’s vis­it will estab­lish “a rhythm of con­sul­ta­tions,” the offi­cial said.

The lead­ers signed a memo out­lin­ing the U.S.-Russia mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship that places defense coop­er­a­tion as a cor­ner­stone of broad­er rela­tions, and notes shared threats and sim­i­lar chal­lenges.

They also signed an agree­ment cre­at­ing a defense rela­tions work­ing group that is to resolve issues in armed forces reform and trans­for­ma­tion, defense pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ties and nation­al secu­ri­ty, trans­paren­cy and con­fi­dence-build­ing, and region­al and glob­al secu­ri­ty.

Gates said at the sign­ing that he and Serdyukov will meet at least once a year and that the two nations will have more fre­quent exchanges among mil­i­tary offi­cials.

“It’s been a plea­sure to meet with Mr. Serdyukov, in part because he and I face sim­i­lar defense chal­lenges,” Gates said after the sign­ing. “We’re both work­ing hard to pro­vide sweep­ing, some­times painful, but very nec­es­sary reforms in our mil­i­tary.

“Today we begin what I believe will devel­op into more fre­quent com­mu­ni­ca­tion between each oth­er and our staffs, and I look for­ward to our con­tin­ued work togeth­er,” the sec­re­tary con­tin­ued. “I wish him all suc­cess, and I’m hope­ful we can learn from each oth­er.”

Serdyukov said the two “had very pro­found and detailed dis­cus­sions,” with each offer­ing var­i­ous pro­pos­als.

“I hope we will con­tin­ue our efforts,” he said. “I hope my vis­it to the Unit­ed States will pro­vide a pow­er­ful impe­tus for rela­tions between Rus­sia and the Unit­ed States. I con­clude that our dia­logue was very fruit­ful and con­struc­tive.”

The two dis­cussed a range of issues includ­ing defense reforms, the Strate­gic Arms Reduc­tion Treaty, region­al and glob­al secu­ri­ty, oper­a­tions in Afghanistan, as well as the north­ern sup­ply route through Rus­sia and oth­er coun­tries the Unit­ed States and NATO use as a main sup­ply route into the com­bat the­ater, offi­cials said.

Among oth­er things, the lead­ers agreed to resume bilat­er­al mil­i­tary exer­cis­es and a troop exchange that will start with three Russ­ian sol­diers attend­ing a U.S. Army non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer school in Ger­many, they said.

The meet­ings were impor­tant not only to build on rela­tions between the senior defense lead­ers, but also among their civil­ian staffs and mil­i­tary mem­bers, Mor­rell said. “That’s why you ded­i­cate the amount of time they did today, because it sends a sig­nal down the chain of their orga­ni­za­tions,” he said.

Gates, a schol­ar of Russ­ian his­to­ry and the Cold War, invit­ed Serdyukov to the Pen­ta­gon last year because he felt a “kin­dred spir­it” with his coun­ter­part, who was strug­gling with sim­i­lar, albeit greater, chal­lenges to restruc­ture his country’s defense depart­ment under shrink­ing bud­gets, the Pen­ta­gon offi­cial said.

Rus­sia has a one-to-one ratio of mil­i­tary offi­cers to enlist­ed mem­bers, and plans to cut some 200,000 offi­cer posi­tions, Mor­rell said. Serdyukov plans to tour Fort Belvoir, Va., tomor­row to learn more about the U.S. realign­ment and clo­sure process for excess mil­i­tary bases, and will tour Belvoir’s pri­vate­ly owned bil­lets, as well as the com­mis­sary and oth­er “qual­i­ty of life” areas, he said. Serdyukov also will tour the U.S. Naval Acad­e­my in Annapo­lis, Md.

In a dis­cus­sion of Serdyukov’s actions so far, Mor­rell said, Gates told his coun­ter­part that the scale of his efforts is very impres­sive, as is the progress he has made.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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