Brussels, 30 April 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council meeting at NATO headquarters yesterday focused almost entirely on tactical, or short-range battlefield nuclear weapons.
NATO officials, including Frank Miller - U.S. Under-Secretary of Defense, who came from Washington especially for the meeting - gave details accounts of reductions already achieved. Miller said the U.S. Navy is no longer armed with tactical nuclear weapons, and that the time necessary to launch a nuclear strikes has now been extended to several hours from a few minutes.
Each side said it had completed de-targeting, so that no weapons are aimed at the other side.
The Russian representatives said Moscow had reduced its stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons by 50 percent, but did not provide the same detailed account of weapons as NATO did. A NATO official (anonymous) told reporters that the Alliance is still concerned about the apparent imbalance of tactical nuclear weapons between NATO and Russia. NATO again called for "full transparency" in dealing with weapons issues.
Romania's Foreign and Defense Ministers also met officials at NATO headquarters yesterday. RFE/RL Brussels reports Romania clearly wants to persuade NATO that their government is on track to be included in the next round of enlargement. NATO officials said Romania's presentations were impressive displays of government and military reform.
Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu said, "we have chosen you - now, it's for you to choose us."
Defense Minister Victor Babiuc said that 135 Romanian officers are now being trained in the West, and that the Army is now "re-structured down" 140,000 troops. But, Babic said Romanian forces are still taking a vigorous part in peace-keeping missions with the United Nations and with NATO in Bosnia.
The new operating plan for the follow-on SFOR force in Bosnia was discussed by NATO Ambassadors yesterday. RFE/RL Brussels reports the Ambassadors expressed no reservations, even about new initiatives, such as the multi-national security force to be built around a core of Italian police. The mission for this new force is to manage such tasks as riot control.
The new SFOR troop strength is expected to be slightly less than the present force, and to be reduced over an indefinite period. NATO officials yesterday spoke of needing to establish "an end state," rather than "an end date." They spoke of the need to develop stability in sensitive areas of Bosnia, whether new political leaders will emerge in the next city and local elections, progress on landmind removal and the return of refugees and displaced persons.
The new operation plan for NATO is expected to be formally approved next week, after which Russia and the more than 30 other countries that contribute forces will be consulted with a view toward overall approval May 20.
Next week, there are several meetings of NATO military leaders.
Tuesday, a meeting of NATO's Military Committee includes, for the first time, representatives of the three countries invited to join the Alliance: Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. There will also be bi-lateral meetings at the Armed Forces Chief of Staff-level with Russia and Ukraine
And, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council of NATO members and 28 non-members states meets Wednesday (May 6).