NATO Prepares to Endorse Russian Cooperation Program

BRUSSELS -- NATO will endorse a sweeping military cooperation program with Russia on Thursday and agree to hold regular talks with Moscow on security matters, officials said.

Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev was scheduled to meet U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and other allied foreign ministers to finalize details of Moscow's participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, officials said Wednesday.

The foreign ministers were gathering in Brussels for a two-day meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Twenty-three East European nations have joined the partnership program, unveiled at a January summit of President Bill Clinton and other NATO leaders. Russia will be the eighth with a detailed military cooperation plan.

The Russian deal is not unlike those NATO has signed with other countries, only broader. It runs the gamut from joint training and exercises to Western help in drafting defense budgets, force levels, proper defense plans and arms procurement practices.

What is special about the Russian plan is that NATO, outside the partnership program, will hold regular discussions with Moscow on European security issues, including nuclear arms safety and non-proliferation.

Russia linked its participation in Partnership for Peace to such special treatment, saying it was entitled to that as a nuclear power.

Kozyrev had been scheduled to attend a meeting Friday of NATO foreign ministers and those from two dozen East European countries.

But his arrival was moved forward by a day so he and his NATO counterparts could endorse Russia's special program, which took months to negotiate.

The foreign ministers also will use the meeting to launch a study on the impact that newcomers from Eastern Europe will have on the alliance as part of laying the groundwork for admitting the nations in the coming years.

The study will deal with such questions as: What effect will newcomers have on NATO's common military command structure? How much will enlargement cost? Do NATO troops need to be based in the new member states?