Russia agrees to join Nato partnership

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The Independent Online
PAVEL GRACHEV, the Russian Defence Minister, yesterday told Nato that Russia will join Nato's new Partnership for Peace grouping for former Warsaw pact countries. He did not disclose when Russia would sign.

Mr Grachev said Moscow would not set conditions on membership but he noted that the partnership initiative 'did not fully set forth the principles and forms of the co- operation' Russia envisages with Nato. He promised to outline his ideas today during another round of talks in Brussels with Nato defence chiefs.

The deal will raise concerns among both central and eastern European nations and Russian parliamentarians. Nato is likely to agree to a separate declaration setting out a special relationship with Russia, which will raise fears that a new security condominium is being created, but is unlikely to appease the nationalists in Moscow.

Partnership for Peace is Nato's most important post-Cold War initiative. It is designed to draw its former Warsaw Pact enemies closer, preparing some for future membership, while not alarming Russia by creating a new division of Europe. But Moscow had bridled at signing because the deal did not give it enough status.

When Mr Grachev arrived for the talks he said Russia would sign up if a separate agreement on relations with the alliance could be agreed.

Alliance sources said that while a formal legal agreement or protocol to the PFP scheme was impossible, a declaration or statement that would be signed at the same time as the Nato-Russia deal was being considered by ministers meeting at Nato's Brussels headquarters. In other words, while Russia would have no special privileges within the scheme, it would have alternative tracks of co-operation not open to other states by virtue of its size, nuclear capability, and strategic importance to the West. The special relationship would probably cover areas where Nato and Russia have particular shared topics of concern, especially counter-proliferation and nuclear issues.

It would explicitly recognise Russia's unique status and might set out possible tracks for future Nato-Russia contacts. It could also deal with the balance of forces in Europe. There would be conditions. A deal would have to be between Russia and Nato, ensuring the alliance's primacy, and not under the umbrella of another body.

It would be contingent on Russia signing up for PFP.

It could not be a detailed blueprint for relations, and could not establish a 'security zone' for Russia.

'There can be no question of Russia expecting or receiving some privileged position with regard to the independence or integrity of its neighbours,' said Malcolm Rifkind, the Secretary of State for Defence.