Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Expanding NATO May Endanger Nuclear Arms Treaty

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Expanding NATO May Endanger Nuclear Arms Treaty

Article excerpt

Now that the Madrid NATO summit meeting is over, and Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have been invited to join the alliance, the Clinton team is again peddling the notion that it's all OK: NATO can be expanded, Russia won't care, the costs will be minimal and anyone who opposes it is a Yalta-loving, umbrella-carrying, Munich-leaning isolationist.

Hogwash. NATO expansion is quietly eating away at what really matters: the U.S.-Russia strategic relationship. When you ask Clinton officials how NATO expansion will affect Russian implementation of the most far-reaching nuclear arms reduction treaty ever signed - START II - they mumble that Boris tells them it will all be OK, but they can't say for sure.

They can say for sure that Poland has to be in NATO, because there are votes in that, but they can't say for sure how this will affect nuclear missiles pointed at us. What a way to run a railroad.

Well, someone who can tell you was in Washington last week: Alexei Arbatov, deputy chairman of the Russian Parliament's Defense Committee. Arbatov is a democrat and a strong advocate of U.S.-Russian cooperation and arms control treaties, and here's what he had to say:

First, there remains "a widespread feeling of betrayal among Russian democrats" in the wake of Madrid, said Arbatov. The way in which NATO expansion was forced on Russia, after all the talk about cooperation, was "a shock for those trying to improve relations."

Second, after the Soviet Union collapsed the general consensus in the Russian foreign policy elite was that the major threats to Russian security would come from the south (the Muslim world) and eventually the East (China), said Arbatov. NATO expansion has shifted Russian thinking to the view that there will also be a long-term threat from the West. "The consensus now is that, at best, the West will be neutral and may even be hostile. But for sure we will not be strategic partners. We will be rivals."

Third, Russia is now embarking on a major debate about how much to downsize its conventional armed forces, and "NATO expansion will figure into every discussion and paper written on the military reform question," said Arbatov. …

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