(Novy Vzglyad, January 11. Abridged.)


Do the Russians want war? The negative answer to this strange and historically absurd question is known even to the most unyielding NATO generals.

Therefore the Russian citizens, unlike some politicians, are unanimous in criticising and rejecting the NATO's "eastern strategy."

The NATO propagandists are doing everything they can to make the Europeans believe that they will not live peacefully and prosperously if the North Atlantic Alliance does not patronise them.

NATO's representative for information issues in Moscow calls upon everybody to stop talking about blocs and especially resenting Russia which does not understand "fully enough" the character and essence of NATO and cannot grasp that the North Atlantic Alliance is one of the means to overcome the psychological heritage of the Cold War.

This is a classical example of the deliberate juggling with facts. It would be quite logical, however, if, as a consequence of the end of the Cold War, the Old World gets rid of all military-political blocs at all, and of all kinds of suspicion and tension.

The procedure of the unification of Germany when one sovereign state was devoured, the dissolution of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation, the retreat of the Soviet troops and then the Russian troops from the European arena took place actually "in camera," without any referenda and taking into account the public opinion, only believing in NATO's "word of honour" that the alliance would not expand and in the West's promise that was given to credulous Stavropol "German No. 1" (Mikhail Gorbachev - DR).

As Danish parliamentarian Gert Petersen remarked in the newspaper Politiken, in the '80s and even at the beginning of the '90s the NATO strategists themselves rejected the idea of the bloc's expansion "not wishing to provoke the USSR." Why, then, are the same strategists so hastily and insistently reaching for the Russian frontiers and are involving into NATO and into "partnership" with it, by hook or by crook, the members of the former socialist community and a number of neutral states?

Some Western analysts directly connect this tactics with the false syndrome of the "winner" in the Cold War, on the one hand, and with the factor of the economic, moral and psychological instability in Russia, on the other. As the saying goes, strike while the iron is hot. And so they do, ignoring the public opinion in the countries which are candidates to NATO membership, concealing from the peoples in those countries the tremendous financial expenditures on this suspicious affair and hotting up the anti-Russian sentiments.

However, not everybody is blind in Europe. That same Petersen is convinced that in the future NATO's expansion may lead to a disaster, to the reanimation of classic tension in Europe and all over the world and to the superfluous and uncontrolled armaments in the new member-countries. It is also difficult to refute his conclusion that "sooner or later NATO's policy of force will come up against the same rebuff on the part of Moscow."

Russia's firm objections to the alliance's extension to the east are being ignored. Moscow is being reprimanded that it has not yet understood that there is no military threat to it from the West. The NATO experts hint on "the absolutely real danger of the conflict with China" in the near future, thus giving it to understand that in the event of such developments the North Atlantic Alliance will not remain passive. They apparently believe that the end justifies any means.

The December OSCE summit in Lisbon has additionally shown the buffer role of the USA in NATO's movement to the east and its desire to confirm the alliance's role as the European legislator. One of the leading experts from the Centre for Strategic Studies said that NATO could in no way be subjected to the "European conglomerate" and that there could be no, even indirect, control over the alliance's activity in Europe by the OSCE structures.

Even if Washington and Brussels announce tomorrow that NATO is a charity club and give it the name of the God of Love, nothing will change at all. The countries wishing to join NATO must be ready to increase the number of their armed forces by 30 or 40 percent, to raise their military allocations from the present 2.5-5 percent of the Gross National Product to 5 or 6 percent and not to object to the deployment of foreign troops, and even nuclear weapons, in their territory "in case of need."

NATO strategists' tactics with regard to the neutral countries in Europe, which play an important role in ensuring peace and security on the continent, is cynical and amoral. They try to inculcate into the minds of the neutral states, as it happened at one of the recent NATO conferences in Dublin, that the principles of neutrality and non-alliance have become outdated now that there is no bipolar confrontation, that they are senseless and that in the process of NATO's extension to the east they will be a serious obstacle to the creation of the European security system.

In other words, attempts are being made to convince the neutral states that they do not have any other way than to join NATO. Can it be that the NATO mechanism, divided by the neutral belt from Ukraine to Switzerland, will malfunction if not integrated with the neutral states? The question is far from being rhetorical. NATO's quantitative and qualitative extension will call for tremendous expenditures to which the "East European poor states" are not ready, both the countries of the first echelon - Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and of the second echelon for which Bill Clinton promised to keep the doors open to the bloc.

The expenditures of the USA on NATO's expansion, according to the budgetary commission of the US Congress, will amount to some 60-125 billion dollars. However, this sum is obviously not enough. In this situation, the neutral countries have, apparently, to play the role of a rich collective donor which will pay the lion's share of the expenditures on the long and painful adaptation of the East Europeans to the full membership in NATO.

The NATO generals are least of all interested whether the neutral states want to part with their safe and tested by time status which for many years ensured them prosperity and safety in Europe. However, the public in the neutral states understands that the ties with the North Atlantic bloc, no matter what disguise it may put on, are fraught with the curtailment of their many social and economic programmes, the lowering of their living standards and some restrictions in their foreign political activity. President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari has named the importunate calls to join NATO, as at the time of the Cold War, a historical anachronism.

Many European experts and Russian politicians and scientists more than once made comprehensive and efficient proposals concerning European security, beginning with enlarging the neutral belt and ending with the creation of nuclear-free zones.

However, NATO quarters are stubborn and do not heed to common sense. This makes one suspect that they have far-reaching military-strategic and political plans which are absolutely incompatible with the noble idea of creating a space of common security without dividing lines in which all the states will be equal partners.