Munich, 17 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- NATO and Russia open negotiations on Monday on a security charter intended as the basis of a partnership. NATO hopes it will also diminish Russian opposition to the inclusion of Central European countries into the Western alliance.
NATO has said little about what it will propose for the security charter although intensive negotiations have been underway in Brussels and Washington for several weeks.
Most experts expect NATO to allow Russian participation in some NATO discussions, but without the right to veto decisions. But there is still disagreement within NATO on the scope and manner of Russian participation. One view within NATO sees Russia joining NATO countries in a discussion on a specific issue. NATO members would then meet without Russia and decide on what to do. Another view, often heard in Germany, is that Russia should be fully involved, even in the final decision-making vote. A separate NATO vote would be only a last resort.
Recently,there has been a flood of statements from Russian officials announcing what are said to be Russian demands for the security charter. Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov was quoted by a Russian news agency last week as hinting that Russian approval of the charter will be conditional on a revision of the 1990 treaty limiting the size and location of conventional forces in Europe. Negotiations on a possible revision of the treaty are to begin in Vienna this month.
Russia has said it wants co-decision rights on anything affecting European security. A NATO spokesman in Brussels told RFE/RL this week that "Russia is saying a lot about what it wants but very little about what it will give in return." But the alliance has already gone some way towards meeting one Russian demand. It said last month it had no intention, nor did it foresee any likelihood, of stationing nuclear weapons on the territory of new members.
NATO Secretary General Javier Solana travels to Moscow early next week (January 20) for talks with Primakov. Solana told correspondents in Austria yesterday that "security in Europe cannot be established without Russia." He said that while there was no direct link between the negotiations with Russia on the security charter and NATO's plans for eastward expansion "we want the timetable for expansion and the charter with Russia to converge."
Other NATO diplomats told RFE/RL this week the goal is to have the security charter ready by July, when NATO leaders gather in Madrid for summit. The meeting is to announce who and when is to be invited to begin membership negotiations. Most experts expect these to be the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary.
A senior U.S. negotiator told RFE/RL this week that the NAT0-Russian charter is intended to be the basis of the pan-European security system which all governments agree should be in place before the start of the new century.
Once agreed, the system is likely to be endorsed by the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe. The OSCE is conducting separate negotiations on a new security structure for Europe involving not only NATO and Russia but also the neutral states and other countries in Europe and Central Asia.
A senior U.S. diplomat who has negotiated with Russia before told RFE/RL this week that Washington expected Moscow to continue its hard-line arguments against the expansion of NATO.
"It's the Russian style," he said "Moscow will hope to win more concessions by complaining constantly about the alleged threat to its security by the expansion of NATO:" He said that Moscow had to realize that even if there was a breakdown in the negotiations on the charter, NATO expansion would still go ahead on schedule.
NATO also expects Russia will use the negotiations on a security charter to launch a new series of demands on arms control. Moscow is likely as well to insist that the charter took form of a legally binding document, spelling out mutual rights and obligations. Primakov has recently called for "very specific, very concrete provisions."
One is said to be a formal pledge from NATO not to base nuclear weapons on the territory of new NATO members. Some NATO countries, including Germany, may accept this but diplomats in Brussels say others want a more flexible statement that would allow NATO more room to maneuver in a crisis. Russia also wants NATO formally to rule out deployment of foreign troops on the territory of new members.
Russia may use the talks on the security charter to protest against America's continuing superiority in nuclear forces, including submarine-launched systems. There have been unconfirmed reports this week that the U.S. might consider negotiations on further reducing nuclear arsenals.It is being pressed to do so by Germany and some other European governments.
However some U.S. congressmen are said to be reluctant to approve more nuclear cuts at a time when the Russian parliament has taken no steps to ratify the last agreement on reducing nuclear forces -- the START-2 Treaty.
Russia may use the talks to renew another old demand -- revision of the treaty limiting non-nuclear forces. The current treaty was drawn-up when the Warsaw Pact still existed and it limits the size of forces on a bloc-to-bloc basis. The treaty covers artillery, armored vehicles, tanks, warplanes and combat helicopters.
Russia's demands for revision are two-pronged. On the one hand it wants national ceilings on the forces. NATO diplomats say that this would probably give Russia, as a huge individual state, more weapons than it received as a member of an alliance. It would also have more flexibility to move them around its territory.
At the same time, Russia demands that the existing block ceilings not be touched. This, of course, affects only NATO. In practice it would mean that the alliance would have to keep the same number of weapons even if it enlarged. For example, if it has a total of 5,000 tanks for its present 16 members it would still have only 5,000 tanks if it expanded to 20 members. The U.S. is known to oppose this Russian ploy.
A NATO diplomat observed this week that the Moscow meeting opens "a very complex negotiation which will require a lot of skill and patience by all sides.� It will be hard work to reach agreement by July.