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NATO: Russia Doubts New Strategic Concept

Munich, 8 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Russia has told an international security conference it is concerned about some aspects of NATO's new strategic concept. But senior NATO officials responded that Moscow had no cause for alarm

Russian deputy foreign minister Yevgeni Gusarov told the conference in Munich, Germany, that some members of the Alliance apparently wanted to reorient NATO's activities by adopting a policy aimed at dominating the zone covered by the European-Atlantic partnership.

He said it appeared NATO wanted to extend its competence to embrace Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet space. He said the new policy also suggests that the new strategic concept envisaged NATO resorting to military force without the authorization of the U.N. Security Council.

NATO's new strategic concept is expected to be approved at a summit meeting in Washington marking the 50th anniversary of the Alliance. It updates the 1949 Treaty which created NATO for the defense of the West against communism.

In his address today, Gusarov said Russia wanted the new NATO document to guarantee that NATO would act in compliance with international law. Russia also wanted a clear indication that the United Nations Security Council is primarily responsible for maintaining international peace and security.

Gusarev said Russia also wanted the document to guarantee's NATO's co-operation with the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) and to search for ways it could interact with these two organizations.

He said, "We hope that the new strategic concept will be free of the vestiges of the cold war, and that the role of NATO will be rather political than military". He also said "We hope the NATO alliance will act in the common European interests as an important element of the European security structure. We do not want a recurrence of confrontation with NATO."

The U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Alexander Vershbow, and the chairman of NATO's military committee, General Klaus-Dieter Naumann, responded that NATO was changing its mission to meet new threats.

They said Europe was faced with crises outside NATO's original field of operations, such as the Serbian Kosovo province. They said the new strategic concept would allow NATO to work with Russia in managing such crises.

Vershbow, said changes were necessary because NATO needs to strengthen its collective defense against threats such as chemical or biological attacks from rogue nations. He said Russia itself had referred several times to such dangers.

General Naumann said that NATO had to take into account human rights catastrophes, such as the one in Kosovo. If action by the United Nations was blocked by some countries in the Security Council, then NATO might have to take action without the approval of the U.N. Security Council.

He also said that decisions were not taken by NATO as such. Each of the present 16 members had to individually agree to NATO actions.