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Central Europe: NATO Membership Costs Less Than Expected

Washington, 29 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - A senior U.S. defense official says expenses associated with joining NATO will be lower than anticipated for the new members -- Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Walter Slocombe told a U.S. Senate Committee yesterday the three countries will have to increase their military spending for several years. But he said a substantial part of the expansion costs will be met by savings from a reduction in the size of the armed forces in the three Central European nations.

He said NATO experts have found the old Soviet-style military infrastructure has a lot of defects but provides a sound base on which to build a modern, mobile force and that the prospective new members have already made some required changes on their own initiative.

Current estimates call for the three to pay a total of $1 to $1.3 billion annually for 10 years to restructure their forces.

Slocombe said the spending priorities are to retrain their personnel, upgrade communications, expand military infrastructure and integrate their air defences with NATO.

Slocombe said the Central Europeans will have to modernize their equipment but will not need initially to buy large amounts of high technology weapons systems. He said that should not be a high priority.

Slocombe appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which is conducting a series of hearing on NATO expansion. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is scheduled to testify before the Committee on Thursday.