Munich, 18 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Germany has proposed to NATO that it make further concessions to Russia to ease Moscow's concern about the expansion of the alliance to Central Europe.
Germany's Defence Ministry in Bonn confirmed today that Defence Minister Volker Ruehe has offered suggestions to the NATO Defence Ministers, meeting in Brussels, but has given few details. Some of them may be discussed with Russia's Defence Minister Igor Rodionow when he meets the NATO Defence Ministers today.
Yesterday, Ruehe proposed to the other Defence Ministers that NATO guarantee that no foreign troops will be permanently stationed on the territory of new members of NATO.
Bonn's Defence Ministry quoted him as saying: "this should not be a negotiating position but a one-sided declaration by NATO." But Ruehe said NATO's concessions to Russia's concerns should not stop there. It should make others. The Defence Ministry today declined to provide details of other German suggestions to RFE/RL, but said they were being considered by NATO.
Russia has frequently demanded NATO guarantee that no Western troops will be permanently stationed on the territory of new members. The demand was renewed by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin at this month's summit meeting in Lisbon of the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE). Chernomyrdin reaffirmed his opposition to the admission of new members, which he described as "moving the the North Atlantic Alliance to the borders of our territory." At the same time he conceded that Russia could not veto expansion.
Commentators said the German government, led by Chancellor Helmut Kohl, supports the admission of some Central European countries into NATO. At the same time it has repeated frequently that NATO should take Russia's concerns into consideration when deciding on the role of the new members .
In his speech in Brussels, the German Defence Minister argued that no Central European country would suffer a loss of status within NATO, because foreign troops could not be stationed there permanently.
The German proposals concern conventional military forces. NATO's Foreign Ministers declared last week that the Alliance would not station nuclear weapons on the territory of new members in Central and Eastern Europe. This decision was also taken to meet well-publicised Russian concerns. But diplomats say Central European states themselves opposed the stationing of nuclear weapons on their territory.
NATO is expected to name the first wave of potential new members at a summit meeting in Madrid in July next year. Most experts believe the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary will lead the first wave.