NATO-member Italy signed a plan of military cooperation with Russia on April 22. The agreement, aimed at raising “military cooperation between the two countries to the level of the political dialogue between Rome and Moscow,” followed talks in the Russian capital between Italian Defense Minister Beniamino Andreatta and Russia’s acting Defense Minister, Marshal Igor Sergeev. The cooperation will permit Italian officers to undergo training at Russia’s General Staff Academy, and Russian officers to study at comparable Italian institutions. The two men also agreed that the Italian and Russian General Staff chiefs will meet later this year. Andreatta and Sergeev also reportedly discussed the situation in Kosovo. Italy, like Russia, a member of the six-nation Contact Group on the former Yugoslavia, has staked out a position on the conflict that is not far from Moscow’s own.
Andreatta also met on April 22 with Andrei Kokoshin, the powerful secretary of Russia’s Security Council. Kokoshin reportedly reiterated Moscow’s opposition to NATO enlargement. (Itar-Tass, April 22). The Italian defense minister winds up his four-day visit to Russia today in St. Petersburg. Yesterday, he held talks with the commander of Russia’s Leningrad Military District.
The military cooperation plan finalized on April 22 follows a cooperation agreement between the Russian and Italian Defense Ministries signed in November 1996. That accord was the first of its kind to be signed by Moscow with a NATO-member state. Some in Russia clearly hoped then that such bilateral agreements would allow Moscow to build military ties with the West while circumventing NATO. Indeed, then Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov used the visit to Italy that saw the signing of the 1996 agreement to launch a vigorous attack on NATO’s plans for enlargement. Under the original accord, it was said that Italy and Russia would jointly develop various aircraft and other military hardware, and would also share information on new weapons systems. (AP, Itar-Tass, November 14, 1996) There was no mention of such projects in news of the latest talks in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
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