U.S., Russian military chiefs meet in Helsinki

U.S. and Russian military chiefs on Tuesday met for the first time since Russian forces crushed government troops of America's ally Georgia in a war that has strained relations between the two countries.

The U.S. embassy in Helsinki said Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met Russian General Nikolai Makarov, head of the Russian general staff.

An embassy spokesman described the tone of the meeting as "cordial, but candid."

"(They) discussed a wide range of issues of mutual concern, including the current security environment in Georgia, the future of the NATO alliance, and the current status of U.S. missile defense plans in Europe," the spokesman said.

In the aftermath of the five-day war in Georgia in August, in which Russian forces overran areas of the country, the Pentagon said it would review all aspects of its relationship with Moscow.

Washington shelved a deal on civil nuclear cooperation with Russia after the conflict, but the two countries have kept talking on issues such as North Korea's nuclear program and moves to press Iran to suspend its nuclear work.

Russia also strongly opposes U.S. plans for sitting parts of a missile shield in central Europe, saying it could start an new arms race.

The United States contends that the shield, elements of which are planned for Poland and the Czech Republic, is needed to protect against possible missile attacks from what it calls rogue states, specifically Iran.

[Source: Reuters, Helsinki, 21oct08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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