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Clinton, Yeltsin Confer on NATO, Security Issues

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 25, 1997 – President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin agreed to disagree on NATO expansion, but not let their opposing views stand in the way of other measures to improve relations.

"We agreed that the relationship between the United States and Russia and the benefits of cooperation between NATO and Russia are too important to be jeopardized," Clinton said following a summit meeting in Helsinki March 21.

NATO is the bedrock of Europe's security and the tie that binds the United States to Europe, Clinton said. "That is why the United States has led the way in adapting NATO to new missions and opening its doors to the [new] members, in strengthening its ties to nonmembers of the Partnership for Peace and seeking to forge a strong, practical partnership between NATO and Russia."

NATO officials are expected to invite new member candidates to join the security alliance during a NATO summit in Madrid in June, DoD officials said. Russian officials oppose NATO's plan to expand eastward into nations formerly part of the Soviet bloc.

"We believe that the eastward expansion of NATO is a mistake and a serious one at that," Yeltsin said. "Nevertheless, in order to minimize the negative consequences for Russia, we decided to sign an agreement with NATO." Clinton and Yeltsin agreed NATO will not build up conventional forces or put nuclear weapons in new members' territory. Nor will NATO use the military infrastructure remaining in former Warsaw Pact nations, Yeltsin said.

In a move to strengthen NATO-Russian ties, the presidents said NATO and Russian officials will complete a document in the next few weeks. It will include provisions for a forum for regular consultations. This would demonstrate "a new Russia and a new NATO are partners, not adversaries, in bringing a brighter future to Europe," Clinton said.

"We are building a new NATO, just as the Russian people are building a new Russia," Clinton said. "I am determined that Russia will become a respected partner with NATO in making the future for all of Europe peaceful and secure."

The presidents also agreed to further arms control measures, including preserving the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, accelerating efforts to adapt the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty to the post-Cold War era and ratifying START II.

Yeltsin said he will urge Russia's parliament to ratify START II, which the U.S. Senate already ratified. Once START II is ratified, Yeltsin said, negotiations will begin on START III.

Clinton said START III will cap the number of strategic nuclear warheads each country retains at 2,000 to 2,500 by the year 2007. "This means that within a decade, we will have reduced both sides' strategic nuclear arsenal by 80 percent below their Cold War peak of just five years ago," he said.

The Helsinki summit produced joint statements on European security, future reductions in nuclear forces, the ABM treaty and U.S.-Russia Economic Initiative.

In the statement on European security, Clinton and Yeltsin said they are committed to the shared goal of building a stable, secure, integrated and undivided Europe. "The United States, Russia and all their partners in Europe face many common security challenges that can best be addressed through cooperation among all the states of the Euro-Atlantic area," the statement said.

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