Munich, March 19 (RFE/RL) - A team of
high-ranking Russian officials, talking to German colleagues, is the
latest to disclose Russia's ideas on the future security structure of
Europe, and Moscow's terms for accepting a limited, eastward
expansion of NATO.
They cover such things as limiting NATO expansion to only a few
countries of central and eastern Europe and, above all, not to those
bordering Russia. Another calls for revision of the 1990 Paris treaty
limiting conventional weapons in Europe (CFE). Russia also wants to
change the structure of the "Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe"(OSCE), and do away with the current system in
which each country, big or small, has an equal vote. Russia proposes
that OSCE have a controlling executive including Russia, the U.S.
and the European Union (EU).
On this occasion, Russia's ideas were presented at a two-day meeting
near Bonn last week. Those participating included high-ranking
officials from Moscow, politicians from the three major German
political parties, and high-ranking officials from both foreign
ministries. The so-called "study conference" was arranged by the
Federal Academy for Security Policy, which is a Bonn government
Political analysts say the ideas discussed in Bonn have also been
heard in several other forums recently. For instance, at the OSCE
negotiations in Vienna on a European security structure for the 21st
Century. U.S. officials have also heard them at various meetings with
Russian officials. Russia's Foreign Minister Yevgeni Primakov has
raised the ideas with some Central and East European officials.
An analyst at the Institute for Strategic Studies in London said
Moscow was following a familiar trail. "Moscow often let its ideas
circulate semi-unofficially in various international forums before a
final version appears," he said. "It allows Moscow to see what might
be acceptable and what needs to be reshaped or adjusted before it is
sent out to make the rounds again."
Political analysts say Primakov has been hinting for some time that
Russia is quietly stepping back from its policy of total opposition
to the eastward expansion of NATO. Apparently, Russia realises that
some form of expansion is inevitable. The line Primakov adopted in
recent talks with Hungary's Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs was that
Central European countries could join NATO, but should not allow
other NATO forces or nuclear weapons to be based on their territory.
He has suggested that perhaps Central and East European countries
might consider joining only the "political structure" of NATO
and not its military structure - as France did for years.
German officials say these ideas were floated again in Bonn last
week. So was another one heard previously - that any eastward
expansion of NATO should exclude the Baltic States, Ukraine and
Southern Europe. Russia has made it very clear in a number of forums
that no country bordering Russia should be permitted to join NATO.
The usual explanation is that Russia "does not want to be surrounded
by a ring of enemies."
Last week, Primakov suggested to Poland that instead of joining NATO
it should accept a "security guarantee" from Moscow. The Poles
rejected the idea. Hungary also told Primakov that Budapest
definitely wants to join NATO, and said this was not directed against
Another Russian proposal circulating in international forums is for
a revision of the 1990 treaty reducing the number of tanks,
artillery, armored cars, attack helicopters and warplanes, and their
crews, in Europe.
Russia has already refused to honor the restrictions on its armed
forces in the southern flank - that is the Caucasus. Negotiations on
a compromise have been underway for months, without a solution.
Russia has rejected almost all proposals presented by NATO.
The 1990 treaty was between NATO and the former Warsaw Pact, and
established limits for individual countries and areas. Now, Russia is
suggesting that instead of amending the 1990 treaty to take into
account the changed political situation, it should be scrapped
entirely. Russia suggests it should be replaced by a new agreement in
which the military balance is basically between Russia and NATO.
Russia does acknowledge that other countries, including the Baltic
States and the neutral countries, would have to be fitted into the
Diplomats say Moscow has raised this suggestion of a Russia-NATO
miliatry balance in several forums, including the OSCE military
talks, and in Bonn last week.
Some of the other ideas heard from the Russians in Bonn last week
have also been around for a while. As long ago as August 1994, Russia
circulated a paper suggesting the OSCE should be restructured to do
away with the system in which each of the 54 members has an equal
vote, whether it is the U.S. superpower or the Mediterranean island
of Malta. OSCE also maintains the rule of consensus for many
decisions, meaning that two or three states voting "no" can kill a
proposal favored by the rest. In 1994, Russia suggested OSCE
should have a "governing body with a limited membership similar to
the United nations Security Council. In the version heard in Bonn
last week, Russia was proposing that OSCE should have a "controlling
body" which would include Russia, the U.S. and the EU. Other
countries would participate on a rotating basis.
The proposal is directly linked to another old Russian idea - that
OSCE should be converted into an umbrella organisation coordinating
the work of other European institutions. Russia proposes what it
calls a "genuine division of labor" among NATO, CIS members, the EU
and other organisations. Together, of course, the two proposals would
give Russia an important role in European security.
Other ideas in the Moscow package include a call for a treaty with
NATO, which would give Russia a "special relationship." Political
analysts say this idea was first floated about two years ago, but has
not won much favor in NATO. Russia has also suggested creating a
security organisation among CIS members, which would be recognised by
NATO as its "opposite number."
The analyst at the Institute for Strategic Studies said Russia can
afford to take its time in circulating its ideas and positions. NATO,
he notes, has said there will be no concrete moves on enlargement
until December at the earliest. the OSCE is taking even longer to
draw up its ideas on a security structure for the 21st century. A
preliminary report on two year's of discussions is to be presented at
a summit meeting in Portugal in December. After that, discussions
will continue, probably for another two years.