. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebed Calls For Peace On Pages Of NATO

MONS, Belgium -- Russian security chief Alexander Lebed entered the nerve center of NATO's military machine Tuesday with a message of peace for Moscow's Cold War foe.


"The planet Earth needs reason and intelligence and not wars. Let it be so," Lebed, for 20 years a soldier in the Warsaw Pact pitted against NATO, scrawled in the visitors' book at the alliance's command center in southern Belgium.


U.S. General George Joulwan, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, wrote: "Together, we can make it happen."


The exchange was typical of the moderate tone that Lebed has adopted during a two-day visit to NATO's political and military headquarters in stark contrast to previous outbursts over the alliance's plans to expand eastward.


At times, Lebed's first trip to the West has appeared more like that of a head of state, with both hosts and guests avoiding controversy and clearly trying to get to know each other better.


Lebed, President Boris Yeltsin's security adviser, is a strong candidate to succeed him if he has to bow out of office due to ill health.


A 46-year-old ex-paratroop general, Lebed has clearly enjoyed his high-level reception. On Monday, he met NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and addressed the alliance's 16 ambassadors on the future of Russia-NATO relations.


After being greeted by Joulwan at the entrance to the alliance's sprawling military complex of two-story buildings, Lebed stood smartly at attention near a NATO banner and Russian flag as a military band played the Russian national anthem.


Lebed, dressed in civilian clothes but with his military bearing plain to see, walked slowly along an inspection line of soldiers from allied countries ranging from Turkey to Norway.


Before moving inside the complex, where in former days the defeat of the Soviet Union was planned, the two men signed the official visitors' book in front of a backdrop of the flags of all 16 NATO allies.


Throughout the visit, Lebed has studiously avoided any repetition of earlier colorful tirades against the alliance which he has accused of behaving like a "drunken hooligan" in its haste to expand into former communist territory.


He has limited himself to saying he hopes enlargement can be postponed for a generation to allow the bitterness of the Cold War to fade.


He persisted with the moderate line Tuesday. After meeting the secretary general of the Western European Union, Jose Cutileiro, Lebed said a civilized West would not seek to threaten Russia and that dialogue would continue.


"We will find an agreement in a civilized manner," he told reporters.


Cutileiro, echoing comments of NATO's ambassadors Monday, said he had found Lebed "well-informed, precise and open."


Lebed and Joulwan were also expected to visit the control room for the alliance-led peace mission in Bosnia. Russia has about 2,000 troops in the 55,000-strong force.


Asked about a renewed campaign against his Chechen peace deal, apparently timed to coincide with his absence from the country, Lebed dismissed the criticism as insignificant.


"The dog barks and the caravan passes," he growled in his now-familiar deep voice.