Login/Logout

*
*  

"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
EU / NATO

Senator Lugar Outlines Priorities for Controlling Weapons of Mass Destruction in Arms Control Today

Sections:

Body: 

For Immediate Release: December 3, 2002

Contact: Daryl Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107 or Peter Scoblic, (202) 463-8270 x108

(Washington, D.C.): Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, declares in an article published this month in Arms Control Today that "enormous opportunities" now exist to secure and destroy weapons of mass destruction that could be used to harm the United States. The senator identifies ten top disarmament priorities, ranging from eliminating Russia's chemical weapons to improving worldwide nuclear reactor safety.

In his article, "The Next Steps in U.S. Nonproliferation Policy," Senator Lugar argues that although much has been achieved in the past decade, more can and needs to be done. He urges his fellow lawmakers to show leadership and act resolutely if terrorists and rogue states are going to be denied the weapons and technology that could be wielded with devastating results against the United States and around the globe.

But Senator Lugar, who cosponsored the first legislation with Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) in 1991 to help countries of the former Soviet Union guard and dismantle their lethal arsenals, warns that Congress is letting important weapons destruction opportunities slip away because of its unwillingness to devote the necessary attention and resources to such activities in a timely fashion. "The weapons and materials of mass destruction targeted by Nunn-Lugar are too dangerous to leave to the whims of congressional holds and roadblocks," Lugar writes.

The senator further states, "It is incomprehensible to me that, at a time in which our country is involved in a worldwide war against terrorism, Congress is refusing to permit the utilization of tested and proven concepts to address the threat posed by the nexus of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction."

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency reports that U.S. threat reductions programs in Russia, commonly known as Nunn-Lugar, have aided the deactivation of more than 6,000 nuclear warheads and the destruction of nearly 500 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), another 350 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and almost 100 bombers. Russia has at least another 7,000 warheads left to deactivate and nearly 1,000 ICBMs, 600 SLBMs, and 100 bombers awaiting destruction. In addition, Russia possesses an estimated 40,000-metric-tons of chemical weapons requiring elimination.

Yet, Senator Lugar adds that reduction activities cannot be limited to Russia, but expanded to counter potential proliferation risks around the world. "It is critical that the United States lead in establishing a global coalition capable of exerting pressure on states to cooperate with the safeguarding, accounting, and (where possible) destruction of weapons and materials of mass destruction," he says.

Lugar's article and his top ten disarmament priorities can be accessed at http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2002_12/lugar_dec02.asp.

# # #

The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies. Established in 1971,the Association publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

Description: 
Media Advisory

Country Resources:

NATO Expands; Members Support Iraqi Disarmament

December 2002

By Wade Boese

At a November 21-22 summit marked by invitations to seven countries to join the alliance, NATO endorsed disarming Iraq, creating a military force capable of fighting anywhere in the world on short notice, and studying missile defenses against all ranges of ballistic missiles. Perfect harmony eluded the summit, however, as Germany and the United States squared off over what happens if Iraq refuses to disarm.

Meeting in Prague, the 19 leaders of NATO members invited Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia to begin accession talks immediately with the goal of becoming full-fledged members by May 2004. Since its 1949 creation, NATO has expanded four times, the last being the 1999 addition of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland.

The seven new invitees combined have roughly 227,000 active military personnel and military budgets this year totaling $2.8 billion, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. By comparison, U.S. active duty strength numbers more than 1.4 million troops, and the Pentagon’s budget for fiscal year 2003 is $355 billion.

President George W. Bush downplayed concerns that the seven new members might be unable to contribute much militarily to the alliance’s collective defense due to their small and mostly non-Western forces, saying November 18, “I do believe they can contribute something really important, and that is they can contribute their love for freedom.”

While moving the alliance closer to Russia’s borders and including for the first time a remnant of the former Yugoslavia—Slovenia—the new round of expansion was most notable because of the invitations to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the three Baltic countries of the former Soviet Union. The summit was the first time that NATO invited any country of the former Soviet Union to join the alliance.

Russia, NATO, and CFE

Moscow, which vigorously protested NATO’s last expansion and wrung pledges from the alliance in May 1997 that it had no intentions or plans to deploy nuclear weapons or permanently station substantial numbers of armed forces on new members’ territories, seemingly resigned itself to the latest expansion, issuing only periodic and muted objections.

Russia’s most common criticism was that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are not party to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, which limits the deployment and stationing of conventional weaponry in Europe for 30 countries, including the United States. The three cannot join the CFE Treaty, however, because it does not allow countries to accede. Washington contends that NATO membership and CFE participation are two separate issues.

Nevertheless, the Baltic countries have reportedly indicated that they would favorably consider acceding to an updated version of the CFE Treaty negotiated in 1999 once it enters into force. But that treaty’s entry into force is stalled because NATO members have conditioned their ratification of the revised treaty, which requires all current CFE members to ratify it for it to become legally binding, on Russia fulfilling past pledges to shut down bases and withdraw its forces in Georgia and Moldova. The Kremlin is behind schedule in completing those commitments. (See ACT, September 2002.)

In their November 21 summit communiqué, NATO leaders appeared to suggest to Moscow that future Baltic CFE participation depended upon Russian compliance with its withdrawal commitments. The NATO statement read, “We welcome the approach of those non-CFE countries, which have stated their intention to request accession to the Adapted CFE Treaty upon its entry into force.” It further stated, “We urge swift fulfillment of [Russia’s] commitments on Georgia and Moldova, which will create the conditions for Allies and other States Parties to move forward on ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty.”

Hosting Bush in St. Petersburg a day after the expansion announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin commented that Russia did not believe NATO enlargement was justified, but he added, “We do not rule out the possibility of deepening our relations with the alliance.”

NATO repeated that it would keep its door open for other European democracies to join and that Russia is no longer an enemy or threat, but Moscow has said it has no interest in becoming a member. Albania, Croatia, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, however, were passed over on their membership requests.

United Front on Iraq for Now

Although largely devoted to expansion, much of the summit discussion focused on Iraq. NATO issued a statement declaring its support for UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and calling on Iraq to comply “fully and immediately.” The leaders further stated that NATO would take “effective action” to support the UN mission.

But fissures appeared in NATO’s stand, most sharply between the United States and Germany, regarding what would constitute effective action. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said November 21 that effective action would be “whatever it takes to make sure that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.” German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, however, said Germany would not support military action.

U.S. officials downplayed the rift, arguing that the important point is that all NATO members currently agree Iraq must disarm, and Rice said that “we’re not yet at the stage of talking about military action.” Just minutes earlier, however, Rice had told reporters that “the United States is at this point talking to countries, consulting about what might be necessary, what capabilities might be necessary if military action takes place.”

Preparing NATO to Fight

Despite the lack of unanimity over employing military force against Iraq, NATO leaders supported a U.S. initiative to create a roughly 21,000-troop NATO Response Force (NRF) capable of fighting around the globe on as little as seven days’ notice. Use of the force would require consensus by NATO’s decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council.

Expected to be initially ready by October 2004 and fully operational by October 2006, the force is to be comprised of sea, air, and ground assets and be able to operate independently for up to a month. NATO will rotate troops through the new force every six months.

Establishment of the NRF stems from the alliance’s shifting focus of defending against a massive conventional attack from the east to the more disparate and asymmetrical threats posed by rogue states and terrorism.

Also reflecting its changing threat assessment, NATO agreed to study missile defenses against all ranges of ballistic missiles. Before the U.S. June 13 withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that barred defenses against strategic ballistic missiles, key NATO members had publicly opposed U.S. missile defense plans to protect against long-range ballistic missiles, but there is now growing acceptance of the concept.


NATO Expands; Members Support Iraqi Disarmament

Baltics Deny Plans to Deploy NATO Nuclear Weapons

October 2002

By Christine Kucia

Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia denied Russian allegations in September that they would station tactical nuclear weapons on their territories if they joined NATO.

An unnamed Russian defense ministry official told Interfax news agency September 16, “We have information that some Baltic heads have already expressed their readiness to deploy any type of NATO weapon, including tactical nuclear arms,” if those countries join the alliance. NATO members are expected to approve the accession of the three Baltic countries at a November 19-21 summit in Prague.

Officials from the Baltic states denied that their countries would deploy nuclear weapons on their territories as NATO members. Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins blasted the Russian official’s remark as “provocation” and said that “the [Latvian] government has not considered such an issue,” according to a September 16 Baltic News Service (BNS) report. He characterized the Russian comment as “an intentional wish to…create fear and panic among people” prior to the NATO meeting. Linas Linkevicius, Lithuania’s defense minister, told BNS the fears were “ungrounded.”

Estonia’s defense ministry spokesman, Madis Mikko, was somewhat more equivocal, saying that “in the foreseeable future there are no plans” to deploy NATO nuclear weapons, the Associated Press reported September 17. He added, however, that Estonia has not completely ruled out the option.

The possibility that nuclear weapons would be stationed in the Baltics, which serve as a buffer region between Russia and NATO member Poland, has been a source of tension between the alliance and Moscow over the last decade. In an attempt to address Russian concerns, the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act specified that NATO members have “no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members” and that they do not foresee the need to do so.

For their part, the three Baltic countries have kept a wary eye on Kaliningrad, the small Russian enclave wedged between Lithuania and Poland. Media reports in January 2001 alleged that Russia had moved tactical nuclear weapons into the region—a claim Russian President Vladimir Putin vehemently denied. (See ACT, January/February 2001.) In response to the recent Russian speculation about the Baltic countries housing NATO nuclear arms, Lithuania’s Linkevicius told BNS, “We might have similar fears about Russia’s nuclear weapons deployed in Kaliningrad region.”

Despite the Russian allegation, the candidacy of the Baltic states for entry into NATO appears to be on track, with the alliance prepared to extend invitations to the three countries along with Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia in November, according to a September 26 Washington Post article. Ginte Damusis, Lithuanian ambassador to NATO, said in an interview the same day that although the formal announcement is still several weeks away, work on membership preparations is continuing. Discussions on areas of practical cooperation between the alliance and Russia are “moving forward” in the NATO-Russia Council, the body established in May 2002 to facilitate greater cooperation and dialogue, Damusis said. (See ACT, June 2002.)

The Russian defense official’s contention came as NATO and Russia struggle to construct an acceptable scenario for the Baltic states’ accession to the alliance. In addition to concerns about nuclear deployment in the Baltics, another hurdle was presented September 20 when a Russian official said in a NATO-Russia Council meeting that the Baltic countries should sign on to the adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty prior to their entry into NATO, according to a September 23 Reuters report. If the three countries participated in the CFE Treaty, it would limit the forces that NATO could potentially deploy on their territories.

However, Russia might be using the tactic to stall the NATO enlargement process, a NATO official told Reuters. The CFE Treaty was adapted in 1999, in part to allow new states to join the treaty, but all 30 states party to the original treaty must ratify the adapted version before new countries may accede to the agreement. So far, only two CFE parties have ratified the adapted treaty, with NATO countries refusing to ratify unless Russia withdraws its forces from Georgia and Moldova. (See ACT, July/August 2001.) NATO emphasized in discussions with Russia that enlargement and CFE should remain separate issues, the NATO official said.

 

Baltics Deny Plans to Deploy NATO Nuclear Weapons

NATO Accepts Russian CFE Compliance, But Wants More

September 2002

By Wade Boese

NATO members informed Russia in July meetings that they accept its claims of being in compliance with weapons limits set out in the adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, but they also urged Moscow to fulfill other CFE-related obligations regarding Georgia and Moldova.

Since the November 1999 update of the CFE Treaty, the 19-member alliance had been pressing Moscow to reduce the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), and artillery it deployed in its northern and southern “flank” regions, which border Europe and the Black Sea. As part of the 1999 treaty overhaul, NATO agreed to relax the limits on the amount of heavy ground weaponry that Russia could keep in its flank areas, but Russia’s deployments still remained in excess of what was permitted.

The revised version of the treaty has not yet entered into force because NATO members conditioned their ratification of the adapted treaty on Russia complying with the accord’s terms. All 30 states-parties must ratify the adapted treaty for it to replace the original CFE Treaty, signed in 1990, which currently remains in force.

Russia declared early this year that it had met the revised limits, but NATO did not immediately accept the Kremlin’s claim and set out to verify it. Although NATO members concluded in July that there were still some uncertainties about Russia’s compliance, alliance members also found no evidence that Russian forces were exceeding their flank limits of 1,300 tanks, 2,140 ACVs, and 1,680 artillery pieces.

Despite being satisfied with Moscow’s weapons limit compliance, NATO members are still waiting before they ratify the adapted treaty because Russia has not fulfilled additional pledges it gave in November 1999 to withdraw its arms and forces from Georgia and Moldova. Russia has made some headway on meeting these commitments, but its efforts have stalled over the past several months.

Russia has disbanded two of its four bases in Georgia, although Georgian officials are unhappy with the number of Russian troops currently staying at one of the disbanded bases. Moreover, negotiations between Georgia and Russia on how long Russian forces could remain at the two other bases, which were supposed to be completed two years ago, have reached a stalemate. Georgia insists that Russian forces be gone within three years, while Russia wants 10 years to complete its withdrawal.

In Moldova, Russia withdrew all of its tanks, ACVs, and artillery as pledged, but it is at risk of missing an end-of-2002 deadline to completely withdraw all of its troops and equipment, including approximately 40,000 tons of stockpiled ammunition. Russia removed three trainloads of ammunition and destroyed some last year, but it has made no further progress since then.

Russia’s inactivity, in large part, stems from an ongoing conflict within Moldova. Russian troops and ammunition are located in the Transdniestria region of Moldova, which is under the control of ethnic Russian separatists, who are blocking Russia’s withdrawal efforts. The separatists are demanding that Moscow write off a $100 million gas debt before they let Russia resume its withdrawal.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is monitoring Russia’s withdrawal, recently reported that experts estimate that for Russia to successfully complete its withdrawal from Moldova by the end of the year, Moscow would need to ship out 20 railroad cars full of ammunition every two days. An OSCE official noted in an August 21 interview that Russia could still meet its withdrawal deadline but that “as each day passes, however, it becomes increasingly difficult.”

NATO Accepts Russian CFE Compliance, But Wants More

U.S., Bulgaria Reach Deal To Destroy Missiles

July/August 2002

By Alex Wagner

In an effort to clear Bulgaria’s path to join NATO, the United States and Bulgaria signed an agreement on May 31 to destroy jointly Sofia’s short-range SS-23 and Scud-B ballistic missiles as well as its FROG rockets.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher commended Bulgaria on May 31 for taking “a significant step forward in its strategic goal of joining Western security and economic structures.” Boucher added that Bulgaria’s SS-23s are “the last missiles of this type known to exist anywhere in the world.”

Under the agreement, Washington committed to fund the missiles’ destruction, which it aims to complete by the end of October.

The Bulgarian parliament ratified the agreement on June 12. It had already voted in December to decommission the SS-23s. At that time, Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov said the parliament’s decision was “directly related” to Bulgaria’s bid to join NATO the following fall.

While the missiles’ destruction is not required for Bulgaria’s entry into NATO, scrapping them would likely please NATO members and facilitate Sofia’s entrance into the alliance. In an interview, a Bulgarian official said that the SS-23s are one of his country’s only modern weapons systems but that the security provided by NATO would make up for the loss of the missiles.

Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf visited Bulgaria in February to discuss the final arrangements of the deal and also succeeded in convincing Sofia to destroy its remaining Scuds and FROGs. Washington reportedly offered Bulgaria $7 million to help implement the project.

Although they are nuclear-capable, Bulgaria’s remaining 500-kilometer SS-23s are fitted with conventional warheads. It is thought that Sofia has eight of these missiles. How many Scud-Bs, which have a range of 300 kilometers, or FROG rockets, which can travel up to 70 kilometers, Bulgaria possesses remains unclear.

Bulgaria, along with East Germany and Czechoslovakia, received its SS-23s from the Soviet Union in 1985, two years before Moscow signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with the United States. Under that treaty, Washington and Moscow pledged to destroy all their missile systems with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers within three years of the treaty’s entry into force. The Soviet Union “negotiated in bad faith” by failing to notify the United States of these transfers, according to Steven Steiner, Washington’s representative to a commission set up to facilitate the treaty’s implementation.

U.S., Bulgaria Reach Deal To Destroy Missiles

NATO, Russia Create New Joint Council

On May 28, NATO leaders, including President George W. Bush, joined with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Rome to create a new NATO-Russian body intended to enable greater cooperation between the 19-member alliance and Moscow.

The NATO-Russia Council will meet at least once a month at the ambassadorial level and twice per year at the level of defense and foreign ministers to discuss issues of common concern and, if possible, to take joint action. The 20 countries have agreed to conduct joint assessments of the current terrorism threat and the global spread of weapons of mass destruction. Other possible agenda items include crisis management, talks on theater missile defense cooperation, and pursuit of greater military-to-military contacts.

All decisions within the council are to be made by consensus. Yet Russia and NATO are free to act on their own, and Russia has no veto over any alliance decision or action. The White House explained May 28, “The NATO Allies retain the freedom to act, by consensus, on any issue at any time,” and they “will decide among themselves the issues” to be addressed by the council.

The NATO-Russia Council replaces the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council (PJC), which was established five years ago to mollify Russian opposition to NATO expansion by giving Russia a voice at NATO. The PJC failed by all accounts, and its breakdown was highlighted by Russia’s temporary suspension of its PJC participation to protest NATO’s 1999 military campaign against Yugoslavia.

Expectations are tempered about whether the new council will work better than its predecessor. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow cautioned in March that Russia needed to “overcome a legacy of mistrust and competition” with NATO and that the alliance needed to become “more open and more flexible in taking Russia’s views into account.”

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, who will serve as chairman of the council, told the 20 leaders gathered in Rome that “the success or failure of this council will not be determined by me, but by you.”

Europeans Scrutinize Arms Sales to Israel

May 2002

In April, European legislators called for an arms embargo on Israel because of its military operation launched March 29 in the Palestinian West Bank. European governments have yet to act officially, although some, such as Germany and the United Kingdom, are looking at Israeli arms requests with greater scrutiny, effectively slowing or suspending arms deals with the Jewish state.

No European arms embargos have been imposed on Israel, although the European Parliament of the 15-nation European Union and the Parliamentary Assembly of the 44-nation Council of Europe—a negotiating forum founded in 1949 to protect human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Europe—have recommended imposing an arms embargo on Israel in separate April votes.

An Israeli official said certain arms requests are not being acted on at their normal pace and that “some things are taking their time.” The official declined to go into further detail.

Although not taking formal action to cut off arms supplies to Israel, Germany has put off making a decision on whether to deliver spare tank parts requested by Israel. German export law restricts selling arms to regions in conflict.

The United Kingdom is now looking more closely at Israeli arms exports because London contests that it can no longer trust Israeli assurances that U.K.-supplied weapons will not be used in ways to which it objects. Israel agreed in November 2000 that British arms would not be used in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, but London revealed March 11 that it had determined Israel used converted U.K. tanks contrary to that agreement.

The United States, the largest arms supplier to Israel, has not suggested that U.S. sales to the country are in any jeopardy. The 1976 Arms Export Control Act, which governs U.S. arms transfers, states that U.S.-supplied weapons are to be used by the recipient for self-defense and internal security purposes. The Israeli official said U.S. officials have not called into question Israeli use of U.S.-supplied arms.

Appearing April 21 on NBC’s Meet the Press, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States is not considering cutting off any aid to Israel. Israel, which received roughly $2 billion in U.S. military aid this fiscal year, is the largest recipient of U.S. Foreign Military Financing grants, which the country uses to purchase U.S. weaponry as well as weapons produced by its own arms industry.

In April, European legislators called for an arms embargo on Israel...

U.S. Urges 3 NATO Countries to Buy U.S. Fighters

The U.S. government expressed disappointment with the Czech Republic and Hungary for their December moves toward acquiring non-American-made fighter jets. The rare public criticism of U.S. NATO allies comes as Poland also considers purchasing new fighter jets for its air force.

Speaking December 18, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland—all of which joined NATO in 1999—should not jeopardize more urgent military needs and reforms necessary for the three countries to work more effectively with NATO’s other 16 members by purchasing advanced fighter jets, which can cost up to tens of millions of dollars apiece.

But Boucher continued by saying, “If you’re going to buy [combat aircraft], buy American.” Adding that “we think we make the best,” he said that Secretary of State Colin Powell “has raised the interest of American companies in selling airplanes” during meetings with officials from the three countries.

The State Department’s public rebuke preceded Hungary’s December 20 signing of a deal to lease 14 JAS-39 Gripen fighters, which are co-manufactured by Sweden and Britain. The Czech Republic also moved closer in December to negotiating a contract for 24 Gripens, although the Czech parliament, which includes opponents of the deal, will have to approve it.

For its part, Poland is looking at an immediate lease of 16 fighters with a longer-term plan for a force totaling 60 new jets. In addition to the Gripen, Poland is considering the U.S. F-16 fighter or the French Mirage 2000-5 combat aircraft.

A U.S. defense official said that the United States will present a “very, very attractive offer” to Poland and that Washington will be more than willing to address any concerns Warsaw may have. The official said the U.S. interest in getting the sale—if Poland insists on buying aircraft—is for NATO members to possess arms that are combat proven and fully compatible with U.S. weapons systems. Although makers of the Gripen contend the plane will be NATO compatible, the defense official said that is easier said than done.

The Pentagon estimated in June that a sale of 60 U.S. F-16 fighters to Poland would cost $4.3 billion. This price tag includes missiles and bombs to arm the aircraft as well as U.S. training.

Russia Finishes Weapons Reductions in Moldova

On November 14, Russia completed the destruction or withdrawal of all its tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), and heavy artillery from Moldova, fulfilling a pledge it made in conjunction with the November 1999 overhaul of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty.

Beating its end-of-2001 deadline by more than a month, Russia destroyed or withdrew from Moldova 364 weapons, including 108 battle tanks, 131 ACVs, and 125 pieces of heavy artillery. Of this total, Moscow destroyed all the tanks, 83 ACVs, and 48 pieces of heavy artillery.

Although completing its obligations regarding CFE-limited weapons in Moldova, Moscow still has an additional 42,000 tons of weapons and ammunition that must be withdrawn or destroyed as part of another November 1999 pledge to have no weapons or forces in Moldova by the end of 2002. In a November 22 statement to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, U.S. Ambassador David Johnson noted that “preparations are well underway” for Russia to withdraw and destroy the ammunition.

Russia also declared in early November that it had completed its withdrawal from a military base in Gudauta, Georgia, which would belatedly fulfill a separate November 1999 commitment to disband two Russian military bases in Georgia by July 1, 2001. But Georgia disputed the Russian declaration, claiming that several hundred Russian soldiers are still at the base. Moscow maintains the troops are peacekeepers.

NATO Ends Weapons Collection in Macedonia

On September 25, one day earlier than planned, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson announced that NATO had exceeded its objective of collecting 3,300 weapons from ethnic Albanian rebels in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Labeled “Operation Essential Harvest,” the NATO mission began August 27 and officially ended September 26. NATO claims that during that period it collected 3,875 weapons, including 3,210 assault rifles and a total of four tanks and armored personnel carriers, as well as 397,625 mines, explosives, and ammunition from the rebels, who voluntarily handed over their weapons. The rebels and Macedonian troops had been battling each other since early this year.

NATO military officers in charge of the mission told reporters September 26 that the weapons turned in were of good quality and implied that the sum collected would substantially diminish the rebel’s military capabilities. The officers’ remarks were presumably aimed at dismissing criticism by some Macedonians that the rebels turned in decrepit, outdated weapons and that the total collected represented only a small portion of rebel-owned arms.

In exchange for the rebels voluntarily giving up their weapons, the Macedonian parliament is soon expected to pass reforms granting greater rights to ethnic Albanians, although it has been dragging its feet. Visiting Macedonia September 25, Robertson noted that the political process is “still incomplete” and called upon the parliament to act, warning that, if it failed to do so, the country risked “the bleak prospect of descent into a civil war.”

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - EU / NATO