MOSCOW, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- The "military summit" talks held in Helsinki, Finland, in October between the chiefs of staff of the Russian and U.S. armed forces had far-reaching implications.
Four-star Army Gen. Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the Russian General Staff, and four-star Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs, discussed the possibility of mutual consultation on elements of the U.S. National Missile Defense system in Europe, where a ballistic missile defense base for Ground-based Mid-course Interceptors -- GBIs -- is to be built in Poland with an advanced radar tracking facility to serve it in the neighboring Czech Republic.
The United States proposes holding another round of two-on-two talks involving Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
Similar talks were conducted in the spring of 2008 and last fall aimed at removing Moscow's concerns about the GBIs and their tracking radars that are to be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic.
However, neither the Kremlin nor the Russian General Staff sees the point in National Missile Defense talks prior to the U.S. presidential elections on Nov. 4 that will elect either Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., or Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to succeed incumbent President George W. Bush. It would be appropriate to discuss specific concerns and joint cooperation prospects after a new White House administration, including a new president, secretary of state and secretary of defense, takes over. Moscow considers such talks untimely at this stage.
Makarov and Mullen probably also discussed the forthcoming Russian-Venezuelan naval exercise in the Caribbean Sea. The Russian General Staff says the exercise, as well as Russian Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack supersonic strategic-bomber flights to South America over the Atlantic Ocean, are not directed against the United States.
Quite possibly, a joint exercise involving elements of the U.S. 7th Fleet and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force near Russia's Far East is not directed against Russia.
Although Makarov and Mullen discussed many issues, final decisions will be made by their respective heads of state, for example, on resuming cooperation under the auspices of the Russia-NATO Council, the coordination body between the Russian Federation and the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
All the concerned parties, including the Russian Federation and the United States, should have common interests. This concerns the missile-defense system that the United States wants to deploy in Poland and the Czech Republic and the Caucasus conflict between Russia and the U.S.-supported former Soviet republic of Georgia.
It does not matter that the unscheduled Helsinki meeting between Makarov and Mullen was kept under wraps and that it took place in a neutral country. Nor does it matter who initiated the meeting. Most important, both the United States and the Russian Federation continue to negotiate despite their diametrically opposite assessments of global developments.
(Nikita Petrov is a Russian military commentator. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)