Nato deal with Russia worries East Europe

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BRUSSELS - A deal giving Russia the right to special consultations with Nato has worried Central and Eastern European countries, raising concerns of a 'Second Yalta', writes Andrew Marshall.

Yesterday the alliance tied up a deal with Russia that will allow the Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev, to sign up for Nato's Partnership for Peace (PFP) today. This will be accompanied by a summary of conclusions, a one- page document laying out the guidelines for a 'broad dialogue' between Moscow and Nato.

The alliance says this is 'all a matter of prestige' and has little substance. However, it has taken since Saturday to negotiate and even last night details were still being haggled over. Its legal form seems uncertain but Russia sees it as inaugurating a new political era between East and West.

Some Eastern European diplomats were yesterday describing it as a Second Yalta, carving up European security. Though the document's detail does not bear this out, it is the long-run assumption of a new security condominium between Russia and the West that worries the countries in between. 'They should not fear a broader dialogue between Russia and the West,' said an alliance source. But an Eastern European diplomat said: 'This is not in the spirit of what we were offered by Nato.'

Some countries are trying to claim their own special deals, running the risk that Nato's PFP scheme will be severely undermined. The point of the scheme was to establish equal relations with all the countries of the former Warsaw Pact, but the Russian deal has severely dented its legitimacy.

Lithuania has already said that it wants a new deal. 'Since the precedent has been set, we also want a special relationship,' said a Lithuanian source yesterday. The Deputy Foreign Minister, Albinas Yanuska, had delivered this message to Nato, the source said.

Lithuania was unhappy at the 'exceptional nature' of the Russian deal and it was concerned because it felt that PFP did not fulfil its security needs. 'We don't have any kind of security guarantees,' said the source. The country wanted more technical and military assistance and it wanted greater political assurances, either with Nato or through bilateral deals with European countries.

Other countries are said to be on the verge of making similiar demands. There is a risk that the region will start to fragment into mini-alliances and that PFP will rapidly lose its importance if countries become disenchanted. Many felt that the scheme in any case did not go nearly far enough.

Nato believes that having tied up a deal with Russia it can now proceed with getting PFP under way in earnest. This involves training, technical assistance, co- operation on peace-keeping and joint exercises aimed at integrating the alliance's former foes and preparing the way for new membership. But only three countries - Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic - have a reasonable chance of getting into the alliance.

Nato insists the deal with Russia concedes virtually nothing and that most Russian demands have been whittled away. The result is simply a statement of principles which does not, as some earlier Russian proposals suggested, subjugate Nato to other European security bodies. No signatures will be attached to the deal.