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From: Miroslav Antic <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To: SNN <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>; Siem News <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>; Balkan News
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Cc: STOPNATO <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Sent: Friday, November 03, 2000 11:04 PM
Subject: Is NATO about to Make a Bad Move in the Baltics? [STOPNATO.ORG.UK]


STOP NATO: íNO PASARAN! - HTTP://WWW.STOPNATO.ORG.UK

Business Week
November 13, 2000
[for personal use only]

Is NATO about to Make a Bad Move in the Baltics?

By Paul Starobin in Moscow, with Stan Crock in Washington and Alexander
Mikhalchuk in Minsk

EDITED BY ROSE BRADY

For nearly a decade since the end of the cold war, the U.S. and its European
allies have essentially written off Russia as a serious military threat.
Even
though the former superpower remains a nuclear player, it can't afford to
maintain its once-formidable arsenal, and its conventional forces are in
serious disarray. Even President Vladimir V. Putin has called for sharply
scaling back to 800,000 troops from today's level of 1.2 million and
reducing
strategic nuclear weapons to 1,500 from the current 6,000 in exchange for
similar cuts from the U.S.
   But now, the U.S. is in danger of provoking a far more truculent defense
stance from Russia. One hot-button issue is the awaited decision by the U.S.
on a missile defense system that Russia adamantly opposes. An equally
important but less-discussed point of tension is the planned expansion by
NATO to Russia's borders by 2002. Both Presidential contenders, Al Gore and
George W. Bush, support moving the NATO umbrella eastward to include the
Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
   Such a move would go beyond last year's  NATO admission of Poland,
Hungary, and the Czech Republic, since it would mark the first time that a
former Soviet republic would join the Western defense alliance. Conventional
wisdom in Washington is that Russia probably can't and won't do anything to
counter the NATO plans. After all, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev didn't
intervene as the Berlin Wall fell. His successor, Boris N. Yeltsin, allowed
former Soviet satellites to join NATO, although he protested.
HAWK BAIT. Putin, however, is expressing increasingly vocal opposition to
NATO expansion into the Baltics. In an Oct. 26 interview with French
journalists, the Russian leader declared: ``The reasons that brought NATO to
life [a half-century ago] are no longer there. Yet NATO exists. It not only
exists but is expanding. Moreover, it is expanding in the direction of our
own borders....Of course, this causes us concern.''
   Even more important, the plans by NATO and the Baltics are strengthening
the political hand of hawkish defense officials to Putin's right. Key
members
of the defense Establishment such as Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev are
resisting efforts to pare Russia's strategic nuclear forces to free up
resources for the conventional military. Instead, they want Russia to
maintain a big nuclear stick to guard against a resurgent NATO. ``NATO
expansion pushes Russia toward more reliance on [strategic] nuclear
forces,''
says Russian defense analyst Sergei Karaganov. He argues that incorporating
the Baltics into NATO needlessly antagonizes Russia and is a ``stupid'' move
for the West.
FORTRESS BELARUS? To be sure, no one expects Russia to go to war to prevent
the Baltics from joining NATO. But there are nonetheless new signs of
military activity on the ground. Even though NATO's decision is two years
away, the Baltic states are already moving to integrate their militaries
into
the alliance--establishing a common air-defense system compatible with the
alliance's and tailoring their weapons, ammo, and uniforms to meet NATO
standards.
   In response, Moscow is stepping up an alliance with next-door Belarus,
which also has a border with Lithuania. For the first time in six years,
Russian bombers and nuclear-missile carriers recently landed in Belarus on a
training mission. And Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko wants Putin to
deploy a joint force of 300,000 troops near the border with Poland.
   If such developments continue, the stage will be set for a period of
tension at NATO's frontier. It may not amount to a new cold war, but it
could
end up to be far from what the Baltics--and NATO--intended.

Miroslav Antic
http://www.antic.org/SNN/


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