Letter: Nato marches east into a great blunder

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The Independent Online
Letter: Nato marches east into a great blunder

Sir: "Nato's planned expansion is not inherently threatening to Russia. Given the right circumstances, it should go ahead." So writes Tony Barber ("Forget the Bear, look to the Balkans", 6 February).

Russia does see Nato enlargement as "inherently threatening" - and a betrayal of commitments made by John Major and James Baker at the time of German unification. Clearly "circumstances" aren't right now, but without a proper European security architecture in place, they never will be.

George Kennan is only the latest in a row of British and American former ambassadors to Moscow to warn that "expanding the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation would be the most fateful blunder of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era" (International Herald Tribune, 6 February, reprinted from the New York Times).

That President Clinton gave promises to Polish and Czech constituencies in the US during his electoral campaign does not bind the rest of us to commit a great folly.

The antagonism the proposal is giving rise to is preventing most of Europe's real problems being addressed. Of which one is, as Tony Barber points out, the future of the Balkans - on which side of a new iron curtain would they fall? Above all, "Nato enlargement" is not free-standing: it is messing up most of the existing and intended arms-control treaties; it is related to, but so far un-coordinated with, European Union expansion; it is likely to be very expensive, but its funding has not been considered; above all, it belongs within the European security framework that the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe provides.

President Chirac, returning from his visit to Mr Yeltsin, has suggested a five-power summit meeting in April for the leaders of the United States, France, Britain, Germany and Russia to discuss Europe's future security system. Which sounds right. Our common European future cannot properly be left in Mr Clinton's hands alone: for that he has, and can have, no democratic mandate.


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