LETTER: What Russia demands from Nato

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The Independent Online
Sir: As the Czech-born US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, arrives in London, your leading article "Expand Nato and pull Russia in from the cold" (17 February) is right to remind us of the diplomatic delicacy required in discussing the issue of Nato expansion.

It is clear to the whole spectrum of Russian political leaders that Moscow cannot veto the admission of any country to the bloc, but Russia does very much have a right to care for its own security. And here Ms Albright must be careful not to stoke the embers of Cold War thinking.

Russia does perceive Nato expansion as a threat, and is calling for concrete, legally verifiable accords to calm tensions should any expansion eastwards occur. Russia cannot rely on verbal declarations - the post- German unification process has shown that Nato reneged on its pledge not to expand eastward after the Warsaw Pact's dissolution. Why should we believe Nato this time?

Are the likes of Boris Yeltsin and Victor Chernomyrdin - on the one hand feted at Western top tables as leaders of the Russian march to free market economics and democracy - really seen in Washington as revanchists just waiting to snuff out the smaller fledgling democracies of Eastern Europe at a moment's notice?

Nato expansion could lead to alarming developments: resurgent anti-Nato nationalism; cancellation of the Start-II Treaty commitments; abandonment of the "No first-strike" nuclear policy and a new re-armament campaign.

It was the polarised politics of first the Nazis and then Stalinism that drove Ms Albright - nee Korbel - and many others from her homeland. She must now beware playing into the hands of today's nationalists and hardline Communists and realise her historic responsibility when mapping out a new course for Nato.


Bureau Chief, RIA-Novosti

London SW7