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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 23, February 1998

NATO Expansion: Press Conference by Vladimir Lukin

Telephone Press Conference by Vladimir Lukin, Chair of the Duma International Affairs Committee, 24 February 1998

Editor's note:

The telephone press conference was hosted by the Global Reporting Network (GRN) of New York University's Center for War, Peace, and the News Media. Further details can be obtained from the GRN's web-site, address http://www.nyu.edu/globalbeat. The following extracts are taken from an edited transcript provided by GRN.

"Question [Arms Control Today]: 'How do you assess the NATO-Russian permanent joint council? Does it provide Russia with an adequate voice at the NATO table?'

Lukin: 'That depends on how the council will work. I'm glad we have it. But if the council is simply a rubber stamp, putting its stamp on previous decisions of NATO, it means nothing. It would be just form, not substance. ...

What is NATO security? In accordance with Article 5, if a NATO country is attacked there will be a joint counterattack. That is tantamount to an attack from outer space. ...

There are new risks: Albania, Yugoslavia, drugs, organized crime. We have to discuss the real problems of European security together. If the mechanism is effective to solve these problems it will be good. If we are outsiders and don't participate, we will make our security on our own.'

Question: [San Francisco Chronicle]: 'US officials have been saying that Russia has no objections to NATO enlargement.'

Lukin: 'It is not the truth. But I'm not saying we think NATO will invade Russia tomorrow. The problem is whether Russia is considered part of the Atlantic community or not. Russia will have to decide how it is being considered - as an equal partner or an outsider.

NATO enlargement is isolating Russia. What is the choice for us? Only to be an outsider. Not a hostile outsider, but still an outsider. It is a danger. We will become stronger, and we are still a nuclear power. It is a danger to us and a danger to you. A few years ago there was the idea of partnership, now there is a strong hesitation in the United States.'

Question [National Public Radio]: 'How will NATO enlargement affect the Start II vote in the Duma?'

Lukin: 'The United States neglected our strategic concerns. How can we reduce our most powerful strategic weapons when relations are put into question? It is not a problem strategically, but psychologically it is a big problem. ... I think [ratification] is possible, but it is a long way ahead.... The lack of confidence is an important thing.'

Question [Slovak News Agency]: 'Three countries were chosen to become new NATO members, but Slovakia was not chosen. Is that because it leans to the East? [Senator] Joe Biden says the inclusion of the three new countries enhances Russian security. What do you think?'

Lukin: 'I cannot say Slovakia is more oriented toward the East or the West. It is more oriented toward Slovakia. ...

In the early 90s there was talk of a common European home, with no dividing lines. There are now dividing lines between countries that are in NATO and new potential partners. Next, there are dividing lines between NATO and the rejected countries, such as Ukraine. Then there are dividing lines between countries like Ukraine and Russia.

Why are we producing such dividing lines? That is why I am against such a strategy. I'm not against NATO but you can destroy it by over-enlarging it. The same thing happened to Rome. Russia and Sweden both are not members of NATO and participate in the European effort to enforce security. Why does the Czech Republic need to be a member?'

Slovak News Agency: 'What about Joe Biden's assumption that the three new countries in NATO enhances the security of Russia?'

Lukin: 'Biden is not more able to speak for Russian security than me or Boris Yeltsin. ...'

Question [Washington Times]: 'What about the idea of a dozen more European states in NATO?'

Lukin: 'If you include the Baltic nations you will make a big mistake.... I don't know any one reasonable person who can believe that the United States or any other NATO country would agree to wage war with a nuclear power to defend the borders between Estonia and Russia. Ethnic Russians live in Estonia near that border. Joining the Baltic countries to NATO means the end of the credibility of NATO. Over-enlarging NATO will destroy NATO; it makes it less credible. It will be very offensive to Russia. It will strengthen the nationalist forces in Russia.'

Question [National Security News Service]: 'You said the Start II Treaty ratification may be a long way ahead. Will the Duma vote by the middle of this year? The US Senate is unwilling to ratify any other nuclear treaty until the Duma votes on Start II.'

Lukin: 'It is impossible to say what the timeline is. Enlargement of course antagonizes the Duma. It is possible there will be a vote on Start II within the next several months, not years.'"

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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