PORTUGUESE PRESS HIGHLIGHTS PRESIDENT PUTIN’S IDEAS FOR EUROPEAN NUCLEAR SHIELD

The meeting with President Vladimir Putin with NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson was highlighted in the Portuguese press, a meeting at which President Putin was straight : if NATO does not consider Russia as an enemy, there is no reason to encroach on Russia’s frontiers. The President’s words were quoted as : “There are two questions which worry us :antimissile defence and the problems with the expansion of the Alliance…We register your statement that the Alliance does not regard Russia as an adversary. We receive this declaration with pleasure and we appreciate it. But the expansion of a defensive union to the frontiers of Russia can only be explained by the perception that Russia constitutes a threat”. It should be remembered that in 1999, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO and that the candidacy of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is being considered for 2002. President Putin suggested a European anti-missile shield, in response to the USA’s declared interest in continuing with the Strategic Defence Initiative, a system of flying particle-beam accelerators in space which are supposed to “zap” incoming missiles, making the USA invulnerable while it pursues its interests abroad. The Russian initiative is to create a valid alternative in Europe, with participation by Russia and western Europe. Lord Robertson declared himself “impatient” to study the Russian proposals. President Putin told Lord Robertson, according to the press reports, that when NATO understood, Russian officials could travel to Brussels to explain their initiative and to explain the system to European public opinion. It should be added that Russia extended the discussion of its ideas to the United States of America.

TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY, PRAVDA.RU, LISBON