Russian Defense Minister: as NATO grows, so do Russia's worries

NATO's hurried expansion jeopardizes the development of dialogue between the alliance and Russia, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov wrote in the "As NATO Grows, So Do Russia's Worries" opinion piece published in the April 7, 2004 edition of The New York Times:

"Russia's military and political leadership has good reason to be concerned about the integration of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, particularly if NATO decides to create large military bases in those countries. The alliance is gaining greater ability to control and monitor Russian territory. We cannot turn a blind eye as NATO's air and military bases get much closer to cities and defense complexes in European Russia.

"Our fears are magnified by the fact that long-discussed adjustments to the Treaty of Conventional Armed Forces in Europe still have not been concluded. The Baltic countries and another new NATO member, Slovenia, are not signatories. Their accession to the alliance has produced a 'grey zone' in Europe's conventional arms control system that could allow the alliance to deploy any amount of heavy weaponry within them. Moreover, there has been little effort by the NATO leadership in Brussels or the by the governments in those member states to ease Russia's concerns.

"This flies in the face of steps Russia has taken reduce its military presence in the region. There are no longer offensive units in Russia's Leningrad military district or its Kaliningrad region that neighbor the Baltic states. The units deployed there are trained to perform defense duties only.

"We are also concerned about the United States' plans to rearrange its military abroad, including in Europe. America is planning to shift some of its Western European bases closer to Russia's borders. Washington assures us that this is intended to save money and improve its ability to fight terrorism around the globe. Yet these arguments do not stand up under scrutiny, and any potential gains pale in comparison to what could be lost in terms of NATO-Russian relations.

"My belief is that if our partners seriously understood our concerns, they would do everything possible not to alienate Russia or damage its interests. We would welcome talks with Washington on all these matters. Only by taking account of each other's opinions will worries be transformed into understanding.

"Yet NATO's actions have been in the opposite direction. Most worrisome was the NATO summit in Prague in 2002, during which the alliance gave itself approval to undertake military operations even outside the territory of the alliance's member nations, whenever it may be deemed necessary. Nowhere in the post-summit statement does it say that NATO would require a United Nations mandate for such actions.

"I believe that the United Nations alone can authorize the use of military force across internationally recognized borders. Any NATO action not approved by the United Nations should therefore be considered illegal - including "preventive wars" like that in Iraq. However, should this new principle of the preventive use of force come to be seen as legitimate in international affairs, Russia will have no choice but to adapt as well, and to act in order to ensure its national interests."

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Author`s name Editorial Team