Brussels, 1 March 1999 (RFE/RL) -- A NATO spokesman says the alliance's approach of managing security as a common responsibility "has to be exported as far east as possible in Europe."
Alliance spokesman Jamie Shea made the comment last week to a group of Central European and Russian journalists about the forthcoming accession to the 16-nation NATO alliance of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
The three former Warsaw Pact nations will join the western alliance next month in an enlarged NATO, a move to be formally welcomed at a NATO summit in Washington on April 23, 24, and 25.
Shea said the end of the Cold War means that NATO now faces a situation where "the adversary is gone," along with any immediate military threat. Shea added that to prevent future wars, Europe needs to adopt a new cooperative security approach, binding its nations together with "common military structures, a common military culture, and a multinational approach to dealing with security tasks."
"The NATO culture of managing security as a common responsibility, as a common good, has to be exported as far east as possible in Europe. Who's going to do that? There's only one organization that is doing that at the moment -- NATO, together with its Partnership for Peace [program]."
Twenty-seven countries have joined NATO's Partnership for Peace Program (PfP), including almost all the East/Central Europeans, and most of the former Soviet republics, including Russia and Ukraine. The PfP area now extends from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south, from Slovakia in the west to Kyrgyzstan in the east.
A NATO briefing sheet says the PfP program aims to expand and intensify political and military cooperation throughout Europe, increase stability, diminish threats to peace and build confidence.
But, speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior military officer at NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Mons, Belgium, said: "Pfp is emphatically not a waiting room for NATO. Nine PfP nations have applied to join NATO: Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Macedonia.
Shea said the Washington summit will consider the possible further enlargement of the alliance, including whether to invite new countries to join. But no further enlargement is expected soon.
In his remarks, Shea discussed relations between NATO and the Baltic states, Ukraine, and the Central Asian and Caucasus nations.
Shea said that, although the Baltics have not been invited to join NATO, they were specifically mentioned in the final document from the July, 1997, Madrid summit of NATO heads of state and government, and the alliance is still "looking at them very closely."
Shea said the fact Estonia was chosen as one of the fast-track countries invited to join EU accession talks has created a new "stability" in the Baltic area. He added that although Lithuania and Latvia were not put in the same category, there is now "some talk in EU circles they might perhaps join Estonia in the same category in the next few months."
Shea said he believes "the Baltic states realize they can move forward and enjoy more security even without NATO membership in the immediate future." He added that he doesn't "know what the decision will be in Washington but it is n-o-t a black and white situation, that you are either in NATO and enjoy total security, or you are not in NATO, and you have nothing."
Shea said the fact that the Baltics now have close economic relations with Scandinavian countries, together with their active membership of the Baltic Council, "means there is a perception that security does not just depend on NATO membership."
He said border treaties signed by Latvia and Lithuania with Russia have dramatically improved relations, although a treaty with Estonia has not yet been signed, pending a Russian Duma decision.
Shea said that Moscow has contributed constructively to a better regional climate by reducing its military presence in Kaliningrad, the small Russian enclave that borders the Baltic Sea.
Turning to relations with Ukraine, Shea said Kyiv is not seeking NATO membership at the present time, but, along with Russia, is one of only two countries with a "special relationship" with NATO.
NATO reached agreement with Ukraine in Sintra, Portugal, in May, 1997, on a NATO-Ukraine Commission that now meets regularly. The commission will have a top-level meeting during the Washington NATO summit that will be attended by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.
Ukraine has also set up a special inter-ministerial commission, that has formulated an ambitious plan for practical cooperation with NATO over the next five years. Shea said NATO is currently looking at how much of this plan can be realistically implemented.
Shea said the main priority facing Ukraine is to reduce what he called its "enormous army" -- still numbering 700,000 to 800,000 -- that it inherited from the former Soviet Union. He said such an army was too big for the defense requirements, and financial resources, of Ukraine.
Shea said Ukraine needs to make its military more professional, while ensuring it remains under democratic control, and added that NATO wants to help defense reform through the NATO-Ukraine commission.
Turning to relations with the Caucasus and Central Asian nations, Shea said NATO wants to "draw them closer to the Alliance."
"Partnership for Peace is not simply a Central and East European phenomenon. It does go all the way to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, and the Caucasus countries, particularly Georgia and Azerbaijian. The Caucasus countries are very active despite their difficulties over financial resources, their geographical distance."
Shea noted that NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana visited the Caucasus last autumn "so we are doing what we can to overcome the geographical distance and keep them closely involved."
[See also -- NATO: Poles, Hungarians and Czechs Join the Alliance by Ben Partridge (Feb. 26)]