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U.S., NATO, Russia: Partners in a New Age

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 19, 1997 – NATO and Russia are forming a new partnership that will link the former Cold War foe to Western Europe, White House officials announced May 14.

NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov finalized an agreement setting up a practical partnership between the alliance and Russia.

Quoted by Reuters news agency, Solana said, "I do think we can be very proud about what we have achieved at this point in the agreement and, without any doubt, we will open a new age in the history of NATO relations with Russia and the stability of our countries."

Pending approval by the North Atlantic Council and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation is scheduled to be signed by NATO and Yeltsin in Paris May 27, officials said. The agreement builds on understandings reached by President Clinton and Yeltsin in Helsinki, Finland, earlier this year.

Clinton hailed the agreement reached in Moscow as a "historic step closer to a peaceful, undivided, democratic Europe for the first time in history." It forms a practical partnership that will make America, Europe and Russia stronger and more secure, he said.

"It helps to pave the way for NATO as it enlarges to take in new members to build a relationship with Russia that benefits all of us," Clinton said.

NATO is expected to invite candidate members to begin assession talks for the first time since the Cold War at a July summit in Madrid. The goal is to complete the assession process is by NATO's 50th anniversary in 1999. Countries admitted will have full rights and responsibilities, officials said, and the door to membership will remain open to all emerging European democracies.

Russian leaders steadfastly oppose NATO enlargement, but Clinton and Yeltsin "agreed to disagree" on the subject in Helsinki and said it should not affect other aspects of developing relations, a DoD official said.

NATO can enlarge and strengthen its partnership with Russia "in a way that advances our common objectives of freedom and human rights and peace and prosperity," Clinton said. "We can build a better Europe without lines or gray zones, but with real security, real peace, and real hope for all its citizens. A more secure, peaceful and hopeful Europe clearly means a better world for Americans in the 21st century."

The partnership reflects a change in the thinking that has dominated international politics for 50 years, Clinton noted. "We're trying to prove democracies can reach across territorial lines to form partnerships that commit themselves not only to preserve freedom within each other's borders ... but to face these new transnational threats like terrorism, ethnic convulsions and weapons proliferation," he said.

As one White House official put it, "This is a win-win-win. It's good for America, it's good for Europe, and it's good for Russia."

Under the Founding Act, NATO and Russia will consult and coordinate regularly and, where possible and appropriate, act jointly, as they are doing in Bosnia now, White House officials said.

The agreement sets basic principles for relations, including commitment to respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all states, peaceful settlement of disputes and the inherent right of every country to choose its own means of self-defense. The act also sets up a NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council as a new forum for consultations.

The act formalizes NATO's stated position that the alliance has no reason, no plan and no intention to deploy nuclear weapons in new members' territory. NATO will not put permanently station troops in new members' territory but does require adequate infrastructure.

The Founding Act also states NATO and Russia will work to adapt the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty to reflect the changed security environment since the treaty was completed in 1990. The new act also calls for closer military-to-military cooperation, including liaison missions at NATO headquarters and in Russia.

Provisions of the document do not give NATO or Russia the right of veto over the actions of other members, DoD officials. Nothing in the act restricts NATO's ability to act independently and carry out all its missions. The alliance remains free to take action at any stage, on any issue, officials said.

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