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Russia: New Study Sees NATO, EU Threat

Several Russian analysts this week issued a new study on Russia's relations with Europe. It discusses, among other questions, how Moscow should deal with NATO's changing role and the European Union's planned expansion to the East. RFE/RL Moscow correspondent Sophie Lambroschini talked with some of the contributors.

Moscow, 15 Sept 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The challenge to Russia posed by changing Western European multilateral organizations is the major issue addressed by eight young Russian political scientists in a new study published by the Carnegie Fund that was presented in Moscow this week.

NATO's expansion to the East -- which has already brought it three Central European members -- is treated at length in the study, whose title is "Russia and European Security Institutions Entering the 21st Century."

The analysis also warns of the effects of the European Union's planned further expansion, which could take in as many as 10 Central and East European nations, including the three Baltic states.

Dmitry Glinsky-Vasiliev, a researcher with the Russian Institute for International Economic relations, acknowledges that NATO expansion today is seen as a threat by Russian foreign policymakers.

He says they fear not only the effects of NATO having made Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic members, but also the alliance's Partnership for Peace program that is active in the former Soviet states. He says many Russian politicians believe granting NATO membership to Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania would be a special menace to Russia. Glinsky-Vasiliev himself thinks the Baltic states joining NATO soon is unlikely because a number of the alliance's members are wary of taking them in. He says he thinks granting the three nations membership would not be a positive step. But he also feels it would not pose any strictly military threat at Russia's borders.

For Glinsky-Vasiliev, the key is not the extension of NATO's membership, but what he perceives as its changing international role, especially after last year's NATO bombing of Yugoslavia to curb ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. That's where he sees the danger:

"Expansion in the number of NATO members is, after all, a regional problem, a problem first and foremost between Russia and the West. But in a larger context, the other expansion -- the expansion of NATO's mission -- poses a global security threat."

Ekaterina Stepanova, a research associate with the Carnegie Moscow center, agrees with Glinsky-Vasiliev's logic. She says increasing NATO's membership is much less threatening than expanding its mission from beyond its traditional defensive role.

Stepanova says Russia's security interests are affected by NATO's expanding role, particularly its influence on Russia's western neighbors, such as Ukraine and the newly independent states of the south Caucasus. She says if Ukraine, for example, were to have a crisis, Russia and NATO and would both be involved.

"Ukraine is a classic case. To be perfectly blunt, what Russia is worried about is not the landing of paratroopers around St. Petersburg. What Russia is concerned about is -- for example -- the destabilization of the situation in Ukraine. Now, there's Kuchma, but what would happen if he was suddenly not there anymore? If the situation in Ukraine is destabilized, and the conflict internationalized, then Russia and NATO will be pulled into it."

The study also pays special attention to the European Union's coming expansion eastward. Its authors say the critical questions posed by EU enlargement are often overlooked because Russia still perceives its threats as largely military and not economic.

According to Igor Leshukov, research director at St. Petersburg's Center for Integration research institute, the EU poses challenges to both Russia's economic and security interests. But, he says, Russia's efforts to cooperate with the EU -- in working groups and other ways -- leave hope for what he calls a "realistic" approach to EU expansion.

He says the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad will pose a special problem. If the EU expands to the Baltics, the Kaliningrad region will be wholly within the Union. He adds that Moscow, the Baltic States, Poland and the EU should start working out a special status for Kaliningrad because that will prove very difficult.

"Integration will not be possible if Russia keeps full sovereignty over Kaliningrad. A concrete dialogue about the Kaliningrad issue between Russia and its EU partners is necessary. There's a mutual interest in this because the expansion of the European Union to Poland and the Baltic region without a resolution of the problem of Kaliningrad's status is not possible. Kaliningrad would then remain an abscess that hampers normal development."

The contributors stress that the crucial importance for the West is not to give Russia the impression that European processes are taking place without it. The coordinator of the project, Dmitry Trenin, says Russia has no choice but to adjust to the changes that Europe is going through.

Trenin calls Russia's expressed aspirations to be a great Asian power a "myth aimed at scaring Europe from time to time." He says Russia will never be a "big brother" to India, Iraq, let alone China. He says Russia is part of Europe by birthright.