Tags: NATO | Russia | Clinch | Historic | Pact

NATO, Russia Clinch Historic Pact

Tuesday, 14 May 2002 12:00 AM

Leaders of the world's most powerful military club were quick to hail the importance of the move. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said the decision to set up a North Atlantic Treaty Organization-Russia Council, where 20 nations could sit together as equals, was historic.

"Together, the countries that spent four decades glowering at each other across a wall of hatred and fear now have the opportunity to transform future Euro-Atlantic security for the better," Robertson said in remarks to a meeting of the group in Iceland.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and NATO leaders at a meeting in Rome will sign the agreement at the end of the month.

"If the thinking that characterized the Cold War can be said to have an ending, then it will be in Rome on 28 May, 2002," the secretary-general said.

Before the Rome meeting, Putin and President Bush will initial a new U.S.-Russia arms treaty that aims to slash the two sides' stockpiles of nuclear weapons by two thirds. Bush said the deal, which was struck Monday, would "put behind us the Cold War once and for all."

Under the terms of the agreement, Russia and the 19 members of NATO will regularly meet to decide on security issues including arms control, "peacekeeping," fighting terrorism, controlling the spread of biological weapons and tackling regional crises.

However, the accord does not prevent the two sides acting independently in military operations, and Russia will not be able to veto NATO decisions with which it disagrees.

The catalyst for the new era in NATO-Russia relations was the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, Robertson said. He described the attacks as a "terrible human tragedy" and a "wake-up call" to the West.

"Security threats can no longer be measured in fleets of warships, tanks or airplanes," the former British defense minister said. "Deadly attacks are no longer launched only by governments, and they can strike utterly without warning."

In a veiled reference to the growing gulf between American and European defense capabilities, the secretary general urged NATO members to do more to counter new threats such as terrorism and bioweapons.

"It is the responsibility of governments to preserve the security of their citizens," said Robertson. "Neither they nor history will judge us at all kindly if we do not take bold steps to protect them from these new threats."

NATO foreign ministers will meet with their counterparts from nine eastern European countries queuing up to join the alliance Wednesday. Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and the former Soviet states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have all applied to join the 19-member club.

Ministers are due to take stock of progress, although a formal decision on which applicants can join will not be met until a November meeting of European Union leaders in Prague. The United States and most NATO states favor a "big-bang" enlargement to their group, meaning several former Soviet-bloc countries could be invited to join at once. But Russia is hostile to states formerly under its sphere of influence joining the group.

Analysts said today's agreement with Russia would help "sweeten the pill" for the former superpower and pave the way for a large number of new members to join later in the year.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Leaders of the world's most powerful military club were quick to hail the importance of the move. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said the decision to set up a North Atlantic Treaty Organization-Russia Council, where 20 nations could sit together as equals, was...
NATO,,Russia,Clinch,Historic,Pact
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2002-00-14
Tuesday, 14 May 2002 12:00 AM
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