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Western Press Review: NATO Questions Still Unanswered, Still Vital

  • Don Hill



Prague, 12 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- As the NATO summit set for July approaches, Western press commentary continues to worry the many questions relative to eastward expansion and Russia-NATO relations that remain open.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Nuclear first strike statements are part of Russia's effort to pressure NATO

"Washington Post" Moscow writer David Hoffman says today in a news analysis published today that Russia has adopted a policy reserving the option, if attacked, to use nuclear weapons first. Hoffman writes, that in Moscow, statements of the new policy are perceived as only one more poker chip in Russia's negotiations on accepting NATO expansion.

Hoffman says: "The recent statements about a nuclear first strike are being viewed (in Moscow) as part of Russia's effort to pressure NATO in the ongoing negotiations over a new charter between Russia and the alliance. (Russian President Boris) Yeltsin said this week that work on the charter was 98 percent complete, but further negotiations are expected in Moscow next week with the goal of a signing ceremony in Paris at the end of the month."

He also points out that, "the United States always has refused to adopt a formal no-first-use policy for nuclear weapons."

NEW YORK TIMES: The two sides even disagree on what to call the document

In a news analysis yesterday, Steven Erlanger wrote that questions still open between NATO and Russia run deep -- so deep as to extend to the very title of an agreement document. Erlanger said: "At the moment, the two sides even disagree on what to call the document, officials say. The Russians are looking for a more fundamental word than 'charter,' suggesting 'Act.' And they want a Russian co-chairman of the new Joint NATO-Russia Council, while NATO wants to preserve its secretary general, Javier Solana, as the sole chairman, though he might have a Russian deputy."

Erlanger wrote: "The two sides disagree about Moscow's efforts to restrict the amount of military infrastructure -- new airfields, bases, radars and the like -- that would be used to accommodate reinforcements that might be sent to new members in time of crisis. NATO is prepared to station only small numbers of troops on the territory of new members, but needs the capacity to reinforce, if necessary.

"And the two sides still disagree over how to phrase the clause about stationing nuclear weapons on the territory of new states. The Russians at first wanted an absolute prohibition; NATO offered a formulation that it has 'no intention, no plan and no need' to deploy nuclear weapons in new member states."

DIE WELT: Russia will return to influencing the Baltics, Belarus and Ukraine

Writing in the German newspaper this weekend, Herbert Kremp contended that NATO must stand its ground against many of the Russian objections if NATO is to be a true force for peace. Kremp said that NATO eastward expansion can "lead to a concrete and lasting peace in Europe" only if at least four criteria are fulfilled. He said they are:

"One -- The Western alliance has to maintain its freedom to implement its policies and strategies according to its security needs and free from any other influence."

"Two -- There should be no grey areas within the alliance regarding security or sovereignty."

"Three -- Although the NATO alliance does not recognize first- or second-class alliance partners, it may be interested in the emergence of new zones of influence in Europe or even give its open or tacit approval to them."

"Four -- The eastern expansion of NATO is the whole point of the opening up of the alliance. If, as a result of this, the other side forms coalitions of its own, this is an expected reaction to the repositioning of military lines; or, to put it another way, part of the nature of Russian security thinking and therefore unavoidable."

The commentator wrote: "It is to be expected that Russia will return to its traditional ways of influencing the Baltic states, Belarus and the Ukraine and seek coalition including China, India and the Middle East (Iran and Iraq). It may not have much success in doing so, but the trend alone shows what price will have to be paid for the opening up of NATO."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Yeltsin is seldom lost for big words

Kurst Kister commented this weekend that Yeltsin's comments last week comparing differences on NATO to the Cold War's Cuban missile confrontation missed the mark and was posturing for domestic consumption. Kister said: "Boris Yeltsin is seldom lost for big words. The conflict between Russia and the West over the eastward expansion of NATO was comparable in importance to the Cuban crisis, Yeltsin declared. Yet back in those days the world was on the precipice of nuclear war; today it is in all probability just a few weeks away from signing a charter between Moscow and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization."

Kister wrote: "Moscow still is demanding NATO's commitment not to station foreign troops in Poland, the Czech Republic or Hungary. Yet such an undertaking cannot be given."

He concluded: "No Western military divisions must be transferred eastwards to this end, but machinery probably will have to be transferred there, and soldiers will definitely have to be posted there. Exactly how this happens is purely a matter for NATO."

WASHINGTON TIMES: NATO must be responsive to new threats

Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker said Friday in a commentary that an expanded NATO would address a different set of concerns than those that NATO was formed to confront. Baker wrote: "As the old Cold War menaces of blitzkrieg and nuclear war recede, we must turn more and more toward political cooperation among nations for security. The Cold War's legacy of great-power confrontation in Europe will be truly ended only when it is replaced by a collaborative structure between former antagonists. The expansion of NATO should be seen in that light."

He said: "Just as the structure and strategy of the of the Cold War-era NATO were determined by the security threat of that period, so the structures and strategies of the new NATO must arise from and be responsive to new threats. Among those threats are nuclear proliferation; international crime and terrorism, and the risk of uncontrolled migration sparked by political instability or ethnic and religious conflicts. NATO's military might cannot confront all these menaces directly. The most effective defense is international cooperation by stable, democratic governments that respect the rule of law, individual rights and economic freedom."
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