NATO in 1997 and beyond All Agree That Russia Must Be a Part of the New European Security Structure

Article excerpt

Slowly, and with considerable grinding of gears, the Atlantic community is moving toward a security design for post-cold-war Europe. Nearly 50 years ago, the Soviet threat made it relatively easy to improvise NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Now that menace is gone, leaving a cacophony of awkward, divisive questions.

Is NATO still needed? If so, what should be its form, mission, membership, and scope? No one seriously opposes its existence - not applicants, members, or even the Russian Federation, successor to NATO's old adversary, the Soviet Union. Moscow wants to reduce American influence in Europe; so does France, for its own reasons. All the others find comfort in the presence of the American power that defeated the Nazi-fascist Axis, then revived Western Europe and kept it secure until the Soviet regime collapsed.

Eighty years of experience, down to the Bosnian war and the Dayton accords that ended it, has shown that Europe needs American political and military strength for stability and peace. The US is perforce a European power. NATO is the keystone of the Atlantic community. NATO must adapt to changed circumstances. The sharpest controversy is over expanding its membership into Central Europe after the web of Soviet occupation. Moscow protests that the alliance is a cold-war contrivance, still directed and intended to isolate Russia. It professes to see the admission first of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, planned for NATO's 50th anniversary in April 1997, as a hostile move. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin recently declared, "We are firmly opposed to plans to move NATO military infrastructure up to our borders." There are no such plans, unless he considers the former Soviet Union's western boundary to be "our borders." Poland does adjoin the strange little Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, the former German Konigsberg plus a bit of East Prussia, but Poland's real eastern neighbor is Belarus. Hungary touches Ukraine, and the Czechs are completely removed. Assurances for Russia Russia already has the assurance that NATO will base neither nuclear weapons nor foreign troops on new members' territory. It is understood that the Baltic states, a sensitive area for the Russians, will not be brought into the alliance. NATO has drastically cut its troop levels and military budgets. US troops in Germany have been reduced by 65 percent. NATO's nuclear strength has been cut by more than 80 percent. The once-massive ground formations are being reconfigured for rapid reaction to local conflicts or humanitarian emergencies. Russian soldiers are in NATO's IFOR in Bosnia. All agree that Russia must be a part of the new European security structure. The West does well to take Russian objections into account, even if not at face value. …


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