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Perry Says NATO to Expand Relations With Russia

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

HELSINKI, Finland, Sept. 25, 1996 – Picture this. A NATO office in downtown Moscow and a Russian office inside NATO headquarters in Belgium. Inconceivable? Not so, according to William J. Perry.

The U.S. defense secretary recommended NATO and Russia expand relations, including setting up offices on each other's turf and having "meaningful, in-depth" discussions on the future of nuclear weapons in Europe.

NATO officials will discuss relations with Russia during upcoming meetings in Norway, Perry told reporters during a flight to northern Europe Sept. 20. The secretary was starting a nine-day trip in Scandinavia, where he was to meet with defense ministers in Finland, Sweden and Denmark prior to attending the NATO ministerial Sept. 24 to 26.

During a stop in Norway, Perry also planned to meet with Russia's new defense minister, army Gen. Igor Rodionov. Perry said he invested a lot of time and energy establishing his relationship with Rodionov's predecessor, army Gen. Pavel Grachev, and intends to do the same with Rodionov.

Russia is concerned and apprehensive about adding new members to NATO, Perry said. He said he intends to tell Rodionov that NATO poses no threat to Russia or any other nation. NATO enhances the security and stability of all of Europe including Russia, he said.

NATO is ready to broaden relations with Russia, Perry said. "I am confident the consensus now within NATO is that there should be a special relationship and that it should be formalized," he said. Russia joined NATO's Partnership for Peace, Perry said, but that alone is not enough to define Russia's role in post-Cold War Europe. NATO will try to form a charter with Russia, he said.

The charter should spell out formal channels of communication, Perry said. Ad hoc communication began during implementation force operations in Bosnia, where a Russian battalion serves with an American division. Partnership for Peace membership has also opened channels among Russia, NATO members and other partnership nations, he said. To further these initial breakthroughs, Perry said, NATO will discuss opening a formal NATO office in Moscow and a formal Russian office at NATO headquarters. "When you go into NATO headquarters, you see an American office, a British office and a French office," Perry said. "When the dust settles on this charter, there will be a Russian office, too."

Under the new charter, Russia would not be a NATO member but would have people at NATO headquarters to represent Russia's point of view, Perry said. Russian officials want to be heard on such issues as deploying nuclear weapons and basing NATO forces in countries that are not now, but may become, NATO members, he said. Russian defense officials would also learn about NATO activities and daily operations.

"It would be a very important communication tool, but it would be different from all the NATO offices there in that they would not have a vote," Perry said. "They would have an opportunity to formally learn and formally influence what NATO is doing, but I do not envision this would involve the ability to vote on NATO matters."

A second feature of the new charter would put Russian officials on NATO committees, particularly for efforts aimed at preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The United States and Russia have special expertise in this area and the greatest stock of materiel and weapons, Perry said. "It's crucial to get Russia directly involved in the day-to-day activities of NATO relative to preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

A particular area of concern for both NATO and Russian officials is the future of nuclear weapons in Europe. When asked whether NATO would put troops and nuclear weapons in Eastern European nations if they become alliance members, Perry said the trend of the last five or six years indicates the answer would most likely be, "No."

During this period, he said, NATO has decreased its nuclear weapons by about 90 percent. There is no plan today to build more weapons or base them in more countries, he said.

This is not an ironclad commitment, Perry said. He said NATO probably would want to see what is happening in Russia at the time. While Russia and the United States are both dramatically decreasing their strategic nuclear weapons, Russia has not made comparable decreases in its tactical theater nuclear weapons, he said, adding, "We have urged them to do that, and we'll continue to urge them to do that."

NATO members have discussed the importance of expanding relations with Russia, but just now are beginning formal discussions, Perry said. "What I've described are my own views on what I would recommend, what my input would be to NATO of how that charter should be formed."

Perry said he expects NATO members to present specific plans for consideration as early as December.

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