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NATO/Russia: U.S. Experts Caution Alliance

Washington, 6 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - A group of American policy experts has released a report on NATO expansion warning against concessions to Russia that might weaken the alliance.

The group, led by Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), says NATO should not try to compensate Russia for not opposing NATO enlargement. They "strongly caution (NATO and U.S. leaders) against even the appearance of trying to compensate Russia for NATO enlargement or allowing Moscow to weaken or hamstring the Alliance in any way."

The report urges the U.S. and NATO to continue to reject vigorously any efforts by Moscow to exercise a veto over Ukrainian and Baltic future membership in NATO.

It says the U.S. and NATO should offer reassurances to these countries that "they will not be discriminated against as a result of their history and geography."

But the group presents dissenting views on the difficult question of when Ukraine, the Baltic states and others should be admitted to NATO.

Senator Lugar, a widely respected member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, summarized the 28-page report at a press conference Monday, saying "there is no more important foreign policy issue today than the future of European security."

He said the document, called "Russia, Its Neighbors, and an Enlarging NATO," was prepared by an independent task force to determine how Russia's concerns could be managed without stopping or slowing NATO enlargement.

The task force included journalists and academics, as well as senior officials past and present from the Defense and State Departments and the White House.

Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft was one of the 30 authors, along with Richard Holbrooke, former chief negotiator on Bosnia, and Thomas Pickering, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and the man expected soon to succeed outgoing Strobe Talbott as Deputy Secretary of State. Lugar said Talbott participated in some of the task force discussions.

Their conclusions in the report will be distributed to members of the U.S. Congress and government to present the main issues and begin building political support for what Lugar said is likely to be "a very sharp congressional debate on NATO enlargement."

On most major points, the report endorses the official U.S. view. It says also that NATO must remain open to further expansion after a NATO summit in Madrid in July that is to invite several Central European countries to accession talks.

And that NATO enlargement accompanied by improved and closer NATO-Russia ties are complementary and compatible goals.

The report also, like the administration, recommends adapting the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), linked to the expansion, in a way that would facilitate NATO-Russia cooperation.

It urges "eliminating the bloc-to-bloc nature of the treaty in favor of national limits (on conventional forces) and reducing the amount of equipment the treaty permits all signatories."

But it cautions that the revised limits must not in any way weaken NATO's ability to extend a full security guarantee to future members. And the report stresses that no agreement should be made that might isolate Ukraine or make it more vulnerable to pressure from Moscow.

The report gives special consideration to Ukraine and the three Baltic states, calling on the U.S. to give them explicit assurances.

Among other things, it says the U.S. should affirm that it "recognizes and shares the aspiration of the Baltic states to become full members of all the institutions of Europe, including the European Union and NATO and will assist them in this goal."

Turning to Ukraine, the report urges intensified "practical cooperation with NATO over the coming years until Ukraine decides whether or not it will eventually seek Alliance membership." Statements in Kyiv have been inconsistent, at times saying Ukraine wants to join NATO or that it does not, or that it does in about ten years.

The dissenting views in the report are mostly on the question of a second round of NATO expansion.

Scowcroft and several others say NATO membership should be limited to preserve it as a special-purpose defensive alliance. He says, "NATO should not be the vehicle for building a greater Europe."

If there is to be a second round of expansion, the dissenters from the majority view in the report say it should take place after a "significant pause" to give the alliance time to assess and absorb the impact of the first group of new members.

But Lugar argued against that saying he personally believes "it would be a huge mistake to declare a formal pause in expansion after Madrid."

He says this would give Moscow a veto over NATO enlargement plans and draw a new line across Europe slightly to the east.

The consensus expressed in the report is that NATO should base a decision on further expansion principally on its strategic interests, actions taken by prospective members to complete their democratic transitions, and on NATO's perception of threats to security and stability.