(Prague, Czech Republic--October 23, 2007) U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said today the U.S. will continue to view Russia as a strategic partner "until and unless it proves otherwise".
He made the comment in an exclusive interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty during a two-day visit to Prague to discuss a proposed missile defense system opposed by Russia. RFE/RL's broadcast operations center is located in the Czech capital.
Gates told RFE/RL, "There has been a lot of rhetoric but in terms of specific actions so far, the Russians have not taken any irreversible decisions." Gates added, "The reality is there are areas where we can cooperate and are cooperating" and "we should continue to characterize them as a strategic partner and continue to work with them."
Asked about current tensions in the U.S.-Russia relationship reminiscent of Cold War days, Gates stressed that, "It's a completely different world, Russia today is a very different place than under the Soviet Union." He said no one wants another Cold War, including Russia.
Gates acknowledged Russian authorities were more authoritarian than the U.S. would wish, noting that the building of the institutions of democracy takes time and that the U.S. needs to consistently encourage the growth of freedom in Russia.
of the interview, by correspondents Ulrich Speck and Brian Whitmore, can be found on the RFE/RL website.