Extraordinary turn of events

SUN JOURNAL

May 29, 2002|By Kathy Lally

We all know that the world has been transformed dramatically in recent months and years, with terrorist attacks against the United States, the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War among the agents of change.

Even so, Russia's becoming part of NATO, even if just a junior partner, seems truly extraordinary. NATO - the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - was formed in 1949 expressly as an anti-Soviet alliance, set up to keep the Soviet Union at bay and prevent it from attacking its non-Communist neighbors in Europe.

It was only three years ago that Russians were denouncing NATO in the most bitter terms for the bombing of the former Yugoslavia during the war over Kosovo. Russians took the bombing as a clear sign that NATO could act against them, too.

"If NATO is able by bombing to reach some goals, NATO will desire to solve all international problems this way," was how one Russian put it in 1999. "Why not bomb the Turks because of the Kurds? Why not bomb England because of Northern Ireland? Why not bomb Spain because of the Basques? Why not bomb Canada because the Quebecois want to split? It can be arranged so that the whole world will explode."

And then yesterday, Russia joined up with NATO's 19 members, making it a group of 20. Though Russia is not a full member, the change is huge: Russia is on the inside now, not the outside. Following are excerpts of the formal agreement, along with comments from world leaders and the Russian press.

Declaration by heads of state and government of NATO member states and the Russian Federation:

At the start of the 21st century we live in a new, closely interrelated world, in which unprecedented new threats and challenges demand increasingly united responses. Consequently, we, the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Russian Federation, are today opening a new page in our relations, aimed at enhancing our ability to work together in areas of common interest and to stand together against common threats and risks to our security.

As participants of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security, we reaffirm the goals, principles and commitments set forth therein, in particular our determination to build together a lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area on the principles of democracy and cooperative security and the principle that the security of all states in the Euro-Atlantic community is indivisible. ... .

In the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, NATO member states and Russia will work as equal partners in areas of common interest. The NATO-Russia Council will provide a mechanism for consultation, consensus-building, cooperation, joint decision, and joint action for the member states of NATO and Russia on a wide spectrum of security issues in the Euro-Atlantic region.

The NATO-Russia Council will serve as the principal structure and venue for advancing the relationship between NATO and Russia. ...

NATO member states and Russia will continue to intensify their cooperation in areas including the struggle against terrorism, crisis management, nonproliferation, arms control and confidence-building measures, theater missile defense, search and rescue at sea, military-to-military cooperation, and civil emergencies. ... .

The members of the NATO-Russia Council will work with a view to identifying further areas of cooperation.

Vladimir Georgiyev, writing in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Moscow:

There are still considerable differences between Moscow and NATO, and Ukraine's recent announcement of its wish to join the Alliance is indicative of the fact that NATO expansion will alter the entire geopolitical situation not only in Eastern Europe but possibly also in Central Asia.

NATO's outpost in the south of the Commonwealth of Independent States is Uzbekistan. That country, Ukraine and other CIS countries have established their own organization with NATO support (GUUAM). GUUAM member-countries have taken a largely anti-Russian stance and directly link a stronger military posture to the solution of their economic problems.

In short, Moscow may find itself in even greater isolation against the background of seemingly new relations between Russia and NATO. So far, that pessimistic scenario is only in the minds of the most conservative section of the Russian military establishment. Although they do not want to see that course of events, they are in no position to prevent it.

Boris Vinogradov, writing in Versty, Moscow:

A trend in development of relations with Russia can be observed in Europe. We are drawing closer in the face of the threat of international terrorism. NATO is approaching Russia's borders; and Russia, in turn, is joining elements of NATO. It seems that Nature herself welcomes this merger. The main point is to maintain this trend.

Profil magazine, Moscow:

The Public Opinion Foundation asked Russians what they think of relations between Russia and NATO.

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