Russia wary of NATO expansion, arms development

Nation prepared to boost defenses, official says

March 26, 2004|By David Holley | David Holley,LOS ANGELES TIMES

MOSCOW - Russian Defense Minister Sergei B. Ivanov warned yesterday that American development of new types of nuclear weapons, armed actions that bypass the U.N. Security Council and anti-Russian attitudes inside NATO could force his nation to adopt tougher defense measures.

With NATO due to admit seven former Communist states next week, including three Baltic countries that were part of the Soviet Union, Ivanov stressed Moscow's desire to see the Western alliance leave behind its Cold War roots.

"Russia keeps a close watch on NATO's ongoing transformation and hopes for complete removal of direct and indirect anti-Russian elements from the military plans and political declarations of its member states," he said in an article published yesterday in Russia in Global Affairs magazine. "However, if NATO remains a military alliance with an offensive military doctrine, Russia will have to adequately revise its military planning and principles regarding the development of its armed forces, including its nuclear forces."

In a comment targeting the Bush administration's talk of developing a new generation of low-yield battlefield nuclear arms, Ivanov declared that "it is necessary to take special account of the possible reemergence of nuclear weapons as a real military instrument. This is an extremely dangerous tendency that is undermining global and regional stability."

Analysts said the article reflected thinking expressed in the nation's revised military doctrine for the 21st century, drawn up last fall. Its publication may have been timed to mark Moscow's unhappiness with NATO's pending expansion to 26 members, but it was a wide-ranging review of defense issues and did not carry a hostile tone.

"When Ivanov talks about the re-emergence of nuclear weapons as a real military instrument, he first and foremost means that our American partners have begun to particularize their nuclear doctrine toward lowering the threshold for the actual use of nuclear weapons," said Sergei Karaganov, chairman of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, an independent Moscow think tank.

A ceremony to mark the accession to the alliance of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia is scheduled for April 2, though they will officially become members Monday.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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