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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 24, March 1998

Lebed Comments on NATO, Dangers of Nuclear Instability

Addressing the National Press Club in Washington on 20 March, Alexander Lebed, Russia's former chief national security official, expressed his unhostile if unsupportive view of NATO expansion. Referring to three States nominated to join the Alliance - the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland - Lebed said they were "nations of Western civilization. They are now just executing that issue legally..." Lebed stated that Russia had no need to feel militarily threatened by NATO expansion:

"If NATO leaders think the addition of the Czech Republic will significantly augment their military might, they are mistaken. If you have spare cash to burn and your taxpayers do not mind, go ahead..."

The day before, Lebed provided a House National Security subcommittee with testimony on the dangers of the spread of nuclear expertise from the former Soviet Union. "These unique experts are seeking their fortune around the world," he stated, adding: "They will do what they can do and the world will face the problems of nuclear terrorism or nuclear blackmail."

Lebed also told the Representatives of his concerns about President Yeltsin's perceived erratic behaviour and statements on Russia's nuclear chain-of-command. Reportedly explaining that responsibility for launching a nuclear strike is shared by three figures - the President, the Defence Minister and the Chief of Staff - Lebed commented:

"Some statements made by the Supreme Commander [the President] in the past few months...indicate a certain inadequacy... Of course, it is quite dangerous when one component of the nuclear button is a person like that... And being Commander-in-Chief, he would easily make the other two components agree."

Report: Yeltsin foe - growing NATO no threat, Associated Press, 20 March.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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