Clinton pushes NATO allies for united strategy on Afghanistan
The Secretary of State also calls for a 'fresh start' with Russia.
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Atop the list of initiatives is Russia. Clinton emphasized a White House desire to rebuild relations with Moscow after the August war in Georgia, amid a US cooling on Bush-era projects like European missile defense and rapid NATO enlargement along Russia's border. She meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov in Geneva Friday to restart nuclear arms control talks, and discuss Afghanistan.
Clinton said, however, that "[we] should continue to open NATO's door to European countries such as Georgia and Ukraine and help them meet NATO standards."
A "fresh start" with Russia moves the US closer to the pragmatic position of Europe's heavyweight, Germany, where the question – as described by Ulrike Guérot, of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin – is: "What is the place of Russia in Europe? Which is tied to the question, 'Which way is Russia going?'"
Allies advocated strengthening a NATO-Russia council, which NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters is "not a fair weather body" – and should be used to discuss "everything," including Russian troops considered to be illegally deployed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
But Afghanistan was the hot underlying issue in Brussels. In Pakistan's Swat Valley, recently ceded to Taliban forces by Pakistan, the Taliban are already appointing civil servants, acting with impunity against civilians, and cranking up heavy new propaganda machinery via FM radio. The secretary began consulting on a nearly finished US strategy for the NATO Afghan deployment.
Europeans, despite enthusiasm for Barack Obama, are skeptical about more NATO troops for Afghanistan, especially lacking a clear strategy. Clinton's visit comes in tandem with Mr. Biden, former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who visits NATO next Tuesday on that Afghan strategy.