Russia Joins NATO PlanBy Daniel Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 23, 1994; Page A01
BRUSSELS, JUNE 22 -- Russia entered a formal partnership today with NATO, its old adversary, setting up a new security framework for the post-Cold War era in Europe.
At a ceremony at alliance headquarters here, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev signed sheafs of yellow paper that enrolled Russia in the Partnership for Peace, an arrangement of military cooperation that could some day lead to membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Russia and the United States also announced today that President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin will hold a summit meeting in Washington in late September.
As a member of Partnership for Peace, Russia will have a Brussels office in modular quarters built atop a NATO parking lot. Its military men, once the objects of suspicion and fear, will prepare joint military exercises and possible peacekeeping efforts with NATO officers at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, located in nearby Mons, where once the defense of Western Europe against a Soviet invasion was planned.
Twenty other former East Bloc countries have joined the Partnership for Peace, but both Russia and NATO heralded Moscow's entry as crucial to Europe's future.
"There are no insurmountable obstacles in the way of shaping a workable relationship between Russia and its Western partners," Kozyrev said at the signing ceremony.
"This is a defining moment in shaping the security of our continent," added Sergio Balanzino, deputy secretary general of NATO.
In Washington, Clinton said Russia's enrollment in the Partnership for Peace was "an important step to help shape a safer and more peaceful post-Cold War world ... where neighbors respect their borders and do not invade them but instead work together for mutual security and progress."
Clinton's foreign policy team regards the Russian enrollment in the Partnership as a victory for his vision of integrating Europe and breaking the Cold War pattern of division. It comes at a time when the administration is eager to produce a foreign policy victory. Clinton is scheduled to travel to Eastern Europe next month where he will herald the expected withdrawal of Russian troops from the Baltic states.
After painstaking negotiations with Moscow, NATO today also issued a statement sweetening Russia's participation in the Partnership by means of a unique channel of consultation with the alliance on issues such as nuclear disarmament and crisis points such as the former Yugoslavia.
The statement fell short of fulfilling Russia's desire for recognition of its status with a say in NATO decisions but goes beyond anything given to other Partnership participants, including acknowledgment of Moscow a "major" power.
The statement was unsigned to underscore that the document in no way binds NATO decision making to Russia, U.S. officials said.
Prior to the Partnership for Peace signing, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher tried to ease fears that Russia might obstruct the expansion of NATO to include states of the now defunct Soviet-controlled Warsaw Pact. Russia's cooperation "will serve the interests of all nations in Europe -- particularly those that so recently won their freedom from communist rule," he said.
Word that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vitaly Churkin will be named liaison to the alliance attests to the importance Russia attaches to its links with NATO, U.S. officials said.
But cautious background comments from U.S. officials on today's events reflected the unsettled state of post-Cold War NATO and some uncertainties in accepting Russia as a potential ally.
"This is just the beginning. We will see how Russia operates. Will they try to throw their weight around? Try to tell NATO what to do? Or be a true partner?" asked a senior U.S. official.
Mused another, "We'll soon see whether this is letting the fox into the henhouse."
With Russia no longer the official enemy, NATO's future security role is ill-defined. The alliance has resisted throwing its protective blanket over any of the former satellites or republics of the old Soviet Union, on the grounds that it would offend Russia -- or, in any case, be an expensive undertaking.
Eventual membership in NATO for several East European states taking part in the Partnership is considered inevitable, but no timetable or even criteria for entry into NATO has been specified.
Several former Soviet satellites in the Partnership view Russia as a potential danger. In particular, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are pressing for full NATO membership quickly -- as protection against a resurgent Moscow.
Russian officials oppose NATO's expansion on the grounds it would lead to Russia's isolation. It is this kind of assumed veto over NATO's future that make some Western officials nervous.
Kozyrev tried to soothe fears of Russian obstructionism. "Russia stands by its choice of principle -- the implementation of national and state interests ... through cooperation rather than confrontation," he said.
"This is not Yalta II," he added, referring to the post-World War II arrangement that effectively put Eastern Europe under Soviet control.
He referred to Moscow's hope that NATO will no longer be an alliance aimed at Russia, but a vehicle for integration of East and West -- part of a "single security space from Vancouver to Vladivostok."
Clinton administration officials expect that over time, Russian opposition to NATO expansion will dissipate. Washington also hopes that Moscow's contacts with NATO will deter Russia from forcibly reestablishing control over some of the old Soviet empire.
As a further embrace of Russia, the administration is trying to orchestrate the country's integration into other Western organizations. Moscow recently won access to technical advice from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and will reach a similar arrangement with the European Union later this week. Yeltsin will attend the Group of Seven summit of major industrialized nations next month in Naples.
Christopher insisted Russia will take part in the Partnership for Peace on the same basis as any other former East Bloc country. The standard framework includes the possibility of holding joint military exercises, with participants expected to open their military budgets and plans to scrutiny and ensure civilian control of the army.
However, the special statement issued by NATO indicated that Russia was more than a regular partner. In the document, called the "summary of conclusions," Russia won references to itself as a "major European, international and nuclear power." For its part, NATO took pains to point out that Russia's new relationship will "not be directed against the interest of third countries."
Russia's unwillingess to be lumped in with its former subjects helped delay its decision on whether to join the Partnership. Months of intense political infighting amid economic turmoil and nationalist pressures led to a series of conflicting signals from Russia about its intentions.
In the end, Russia decided that it needed the Partnership, and the link to the West it represents, to increase its international standing and make a case for equal treatment with other major powers, U.S. officials said.