Subject: Nato and Russia: paranoia continues
Date: Thu, 13 Feb 1997 15:37:17 -0500
From: Levan kverenckiladze <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Organization: The Ohio State University
JAVIER SOLANA'S COLD PEACE
Do you appreciate the Caucasus' strategic importance? the NATO secretary general was asked by the media on the eve of his visit to Tbilisi, Georgia.
As if there are any doubts. Does anyone think it is the beauty of the snow-capped mountains that calls NATO's chief strategist?
Solana's diplomatic blitz tour of three Transcaucasian states and Moldova has raised quite a few questions.
At the time of Germany's reunification, the "matter at issue was not NATO's expansion, but rather the expediency of Germany's membership in NATO," President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia stated when the NATO secretary general came to visit with him.
And he was right. The recent press speculations to the effect that the former Soviet foreign minister, working in tandem with Soviet president Gorbachev, had been negotiating NATO's possible advance to the Bug is nothing but idle talk of people who do not remember the most recent history. The question at that time was: Should the united Germany be in NATO? - neither more nor less.
Still, it was the Shevardnadze foreign policy that paved NATO's way to the east which the alliance hopes to make without a single shot fired. The former foreign minister "ceded" everything he could at the talks and thus flagrantly violated state discipline. Softened by Genscher, Shevardnadze exceeded his mandate and okayed Germany's reunification by the formula of 2+4, rather than 4+2. That was not the simple permutation of items where the sum total remains the same; that was a permutation of priorities.
Today, even the uninitiated can appreciate that Shevardnadze was acting more in the interests of Germany and NATO than of the state whose successor is Russia.
This is the reference point from which to judge the recent Shevardnadze-Solana talks. The division line in Europe shifts from the Elbe to the Bug, and Shevardnadze is proposing the argument that Moscow is "over-dramatising the matter." "Every state is free to enter whatever organisation it wills." Such stance would not win the ex-minister even a doorman's post in the Russian foreign ministry these days.
Before coming to Tbilisi, Solana had visited Moldova. He plans to make trips to Yerevan, Armenia, and Baku, Azerbaijan. The lover of veiled expressions, the secretary general could not find a better rationale for his voyages than the old rhetoric of developing cooperation under the Partnership For Peace programme.
But the slack bilateral relations with Moldova and the Transcaucasian states is in no way NATO's main headache now that its relations with Moscow are at stake. So why did the NATO boss toured the southern frontiers of the Russian state?
The most logical explanation is the possible adaptation, i.e. revision, of some provisions of the conventional forces in Europe treaty. For an expanded NATO will have replenished its arsenals with a part of the defunct Warsaw Pact's quota.
Meanwhile, Russia's security interests, from the zonal viewpoint, will have been infringed exactly on the northwestern and southwestern directions. The latter direction coincides with Solana' itinerary.
NATO says it is ready to make concessions. The NATO secretary general has probably decided to probe the opinion of Russia's southern neighbours.
Does he intend to apply pressure on them or on Moscow? The variants are many and not conflicting. Given an opportune moment, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Moldova are easily presentable to the global community as victims of a "Russian plot" that aimed to keep them in Moscow's orbit, with the resultant bloodshed in all three cases. One should not forget that whatever is said to the contrary, NATO is still spearheaded against Russia.
Solana is apt to smile a lot when talking to the media. Yet his stance is very tough, as proven by his talks in Moscow. Solana wants the document spelling out relations between NATO and Russia to be a political declaration, rather than an accord that legally binds the sides to live up to their pledges.
Solana went as far as to correct Chancellor Kohl who had dropped in to Moscow shortly before the NATO secretary general and promised to Yeltsin not to station nuclear weapons in the territories of new members.
Solana believes that this is only possible in the current specific conditions. But he does not think it is possible to buttress the status quo for all times with an accord.
(Komsomolskaya Pravda, February 13. In full.)
Sakartvelo - The Republic of Georgia