Friday, Mar 01, 2002
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By Batuk Gathani
According to estimates, of the $ 500 billion defence budget of NATO, the U.S. contributes $ 300 billion compared to Europe's share of $ 150 billion. To redefine and reiterate NATO's special relationship with Russia, the 19 member states of the alliance are again in the process of wooing Russia with offer of a close relationship. The latest proposal was worked out by 19 ambassadors of the member countries "behind closed doors''. According to current estimates, NATO may add a dozen new members within a decade. As the organisation already borders Russia with Poland becoming a member, the former is being offered a new relationship, giving it a "unique status''.
According to current projections, NATO will have the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as members within the next 12 months. The enlargement process will be launched later this year. A political row between Washington and Moscow was triggered when the U.S. was accused of backing NATO membership of the Baltic states ahead of other candidate countries from eastern and central Europe.
The move to give special membership preference to Baltic states has caused resentment and Moscow has obviously frowned on the process. The three states will be officially invited to become NATO members at a summit in Prague in summer.
The Czech Republic, along with Hungary and Poland, are the newest members of NATO and among the first batch of former communist-ruled East European countries, who were also members of the now defunct Warsaw Pact alliance. It is argued that the Baltic states are being given "preferential treatment'' at the insistence of the U.S., which wants to send a strong signal to Moscow that it has no "lingering imperial rights" over the three states. The latest proposals by NATO ambassadors, if accepted by Russia, may officially end a three-month diplomatic deadlock. The Americans have consistently resisted proposals which may give Russia wide decision-making powers in the NATO. It remains to be seen how Russia will respond to the NATO overtures for a "warm and friendly'' relationship.
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