US Defense Secretary Gates heads to Moscow
( AFP )- US Defense Secretary Robert Gates left for Moscow late Sunday, for his first meeting with Russia's newly elected president Dmitry Medvedev, as well as other top officials.
Gates was also meet with President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov during the two-day trip.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, traveling separately, was also to take part in the meetings in Moscow.
They were to discuss a range of issues causing tension between Moscow and Washington, and will also have a chance to assess Medvedev's independence from Putin, who stands down in May and will become Russia's prime minister.
Talks are expected to cover US plans for a missile defense shield in central Europe, which Moscow strongly opposes, and Russia's suspension of a Cold War-era treaty limiting troop deployments in Europe.
Kosovo's recent declaration of independence from Serbia -- which Washington has supported but Russiaf rejects -- are also likely to be on the agenda, as is the eastward expansion of the NATO military alliance.
Analysts note the talks will also cover areas of US-Russian cooperation, including on fighting terrorism and checking the spread of nuclear weapons.