Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 102

On the eve of talks marking the first anniversary of a major NATO-Russian cooperation agreement, a top Russian Defense Ministry official has published an article criticizing NATO on several counts and harshly warning the Alliance against expanding onto the territory of the former Soviet Union. Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, head of the Defense Ministry’s main department for international military cooperation, said in yesterday’s Nezavisimaya gazeta that Moscow continues to oppose NATO’s enlargement plans. He also said that a decision to admit former Soviet states–a reference aimed presumably at the three Baltic countries–into the Alliance would prompt Moscow to increase its strategic forces in Northwestern Russia and to reconsider its commitments to unspecified arms control agreements.

Moscow has long made clear its opposition to any move by the alliance to admit former Soviet states. Ivashov’s words, however, were among the strongest to be expressed by any Russian official on the subject. “At all levels,” Ivashov said, “we openly say that if former Soviet republics become candidates for admission into the alliance, then the situation in Europe will become unstable and the geopolitical situation will change.”

Ivashov also criticized, moreover, NATO’s refusal thus far to discuss in detail its plans for developing military infrastructures in newly admitted member states. Moscow is “extremely concerned over the issue of transparency in the development of NATO military infrastructure, especially on the territory of new Eastern European members of the alliance,” he said. In the same vein, he warned the West against using the NATO-Russia Founding Act–the agreement signed a year ago between Moscow and the Alliance–as a “smoke screen” to obscure plans to move NATO military structures closer to Russia. If the alliance does this, he warned, and if it fails to transform itself into a political organization, then “it is natural to assume that the life of this unique document [the Founding Act] will prove short.”

Finally, Ivashov said that despite the signing of the Founding Act, “a mechanism for partner relations [between Russia and NATO] has not yet been created.” He suggested that, because of this failure, a NATO military mission will be allowed to start its work in Moscow by the end of this year, but it will not be housed in Russia’s Defense Ministry.” (Russian agencies, May 27) Citing the fact that a Russian military mission is working at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Alliance officials have called for the analogous NATO mission to be located at Russia’s Defense Ministry. The establishment of the missions is called for in the Founding Act.