Copenhagen, March 27 (RFE/RL) - Denmark's
Defense Minister Hans Haekkerup says NATO expansion plans will go
forward regardless of the results of the pending Russian presidential
Haekkerup told RFE/RL in a wide-ranging interview in
Copenhagen yesterday that the worst case scenario for both the West
and Russia itself would be a new Kremlin leadership dominated by
nationalists or hard-line Communists. The best, he said, would be a
genuine democratic government. But, he added, neither scenario is
He said he expects the new Moscow leadership to be a regime with
mixture of democratic and authoritarian trends. Regardless of whether
incumbent President Boris Yeltsin or communist challenger Gennady
Zyuganov wins, he said, Russia cannot modernize itself unless it
works with the West, first and foremost in the economy, but also in
the sphere of foreign policy.
Hans Haekkerup, a Social Democrat, has been the defense minister of
Denmark since 1993. In the interview, he dismissed concerns that the
recent treaty of union between Russia and Belarus jeopardizes
prospective NATO membership for Poland, which shares a border with
Belarus. He said that Poland has chosen to integrate with Western
structures, a decision that is its right as a sovereign nation.
Poland probably will be among the first Eastern countries to be
accepted in NATO, Haekkerup said.
He said he favors gradual enlargement of NATO. He said that the
alliance should avoid taking in a group of countries, while leaving
others out. That would create an impression that new dividing lines
are being drawn in Europe, the defense minister said.
Haekkerup said that the issue of stationing nuclear arms in Eastern
Europe is an artificial question. The West has removed short-range
nuclear missiles from Europe and has no intention of putting them
back there, he said. Denmark is a founding member of NATO and during
the Cold War was considered a front-line state. It has never had
nuclear weapons or foreign troops in its territory. But it has agreed
it would consider both in case of war.
He said that it is essential for the NATO peace-making operation in
Bosnia to succeed in order to build greater understanding that NATO
is a functioning body with purely defensive goals. In the Balkans,
where NATO and Russian forces are participating side by side, the
West is showing it does more than pay lip service to Russian
concerns, Haekkerup said.