Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev yesterday cautioned NATO that Russia may create a Russian-Belarusan joint command and deploy Russian troops in western areas of Belarus. The reasoning behind this: a countermove to NATO’s enlargement. Sergeev spoke in Rendsburg, northern Germany, while visiting a NATO headquarters located there. NATO intends to move that center to northern Poland as part of a plan to create and deploy a German-Danish-Polish corps in northern Poland. Sergeev complained that the selected location is dangerously close to the borders of Russia and Belarus. He warned that such plans, and a Russian response in Belarus, "may lead to a confrontation between two military alliances." (DPA, Russian agencies, January 29)
On instructions from Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Sergeev signed a set of wide-ranging military cooperation agreements with the Belarus Defense Ministry on December 19. On that occasion Russian officials indicated that the stationing of Russian troops in Belarus is envisioned, but not intended in the near term. For the time being, Moscow apparently plans to move military units in and out of Belarus in connection with joint exercises. (See Monitor, December 22) Presumably counting on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s cooperation, and without regard to Belarus’ neutrality, Moscow would like to create the impression that it can play a Belarus card against NATO in Central Europe.
Major Opposition Newspaper Suspended in Ukraine.