Russia's president showed muscle Thursday in his first major foreign policy speech since taking office a month ago, warning that a further NATO expansion eastward would ruin Russia's relations with the West. Meanwhile, Russia announced that the second of its three remaining plutonium-producing reactors had been closed.
Speaking to a group of German policymakers and business leaders, Dmitry Medvedev's warning continued the course of his predecessor Vladimir Putin, who fiercely opposed the alliance's plans to incorporate Russia's ex-Soviet neighbors, Ukraine and Georgia. Yet Medvedev also sounded more conciliatory, making offers to step back from confrontation and work out a new European security pact.
Medvedev, on his first visit to the West since he was sworn in on May 7, said Russia wants to move closer to Europe.
“By dismantling the Soviet system and rejecting its restoration … Russia has laid a foundation for forming a state fully compatible with the rest of Europe,” he said.
“Russia today has come in from the cold, has returned from nearly a century of isolation and self-isolation,” Medvedev said.
He said that in the post-Cold War world, old alliances such as NATO had lost their relevance and suggested its expansion reflected a search for new purpose. He proposed holding an all-Europe summit to consider signing a new security pact.
Should NATO continue its expansion, Medvedev said, relations will be undermined.
2nd of 3 weapons reactors closed
The closing of Russia's ADE-5 reactor at the Siberian Chemical Plant in Seversk is part of a years-long effort by Moscow and Washington to shutter the Cold War-era facilities that produced material for nuclear weapons.
The plant's first reactor was shut down on April 20. Russia's last plutonium-producing reactor, in the city of Zheleznogorsk, is expected to be shuttered by 2010.
Located in secret cities, the plants were part of the Soviet Union's sprawling nuclear weapons complex and produced weapons-grade plutonium for 50 years. But in the early years after the Soviet breakup, the Defense Ministry stopped buying the plutonium.
The U.S. pushed for years to close the plants, but they produced electricity and heat for cities as a byproduct of their operations, and the Russians did not want to leave Siberian cities without power before coal-fired replacement plants were built.
The U.S., which has closed all 14 of its plutonium-production facilities, is thought to have about 110 tons of weapons-grade plutonium stockpiled, and Russia is thought to have about 154 tons.