Alliance extending hand east NATO offers help to its former enemies.

June 07, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK — .TC COPENHAGEN, Denmark - The North Atlantic Treaty Organization made an unprecedented offer to Eastern European nations and the Soviet Union to participate in sweeping political and military cooperation.

On the first day of a two-day meeting here yesterday, the NATO foreign ministers issued a declaration reaching out to their onetime Communist enemies in the now-disbanded Warsaw Pact military alliance.

However, the 16-member NATO appeared to close the door on the issue of admitting Eastern European members into the Atlantic Alliance because it does not wish to "isolate" the Soviet Union or see "a new division of Europe," the delegates said in their statement. Some of the former Warsaw Pact members, such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia, have expressed interest in joining NATO.

Diplomats here said NATO was pursuing a delicate goal: offering help to the emerging Eastern European democracies that would like to be part of the alliance, without alarming the Soviet Union by actually inviting those countries to join. NATO officials have said that adding Eastern European nations to the Western alliance could strengthen the hand of hard-liners in the Soviet Union and undermine President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who is beset by domestic enemies of the left and right as he attempts to reshape his country politically and economically.

The NATO declaration, titled "Partnership With the Countries of Central and Eastern Europe," declared: "Our own security is inseparably linked to that of all other states in Europe.

"Our common security can best be safeguarded through the further development of a network of interlocking institutions and relationships."

But in almost the same breath, NATO warned: "The consolidation and preservation throughout the Continent of democratic societies and their freedom from any form of coercion or intimidation are therefore of direct and material concern to us."

U.S. diplomats explained that the word "coercion" was carefully chosen to tell the Soviets that any crackdown on their former Eastern European satellites could ruin the new cooperative effort.

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