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NATO Formally Embraces
Russia as a Junior Partner

By DAVID E. SANGER, New York Times

ROME, May 28 — NATO formally welcomed Russia today as a participant — but not a full-fledged member — in the organization created 53 years ago to contain Soviet power and expansion. The agreement signed here today at an extraordinary meeting of the leaders of NATO's 19 member nations marked what the Bush administration hopes is another major step in its effort to lock in Moscow's shift toward the West.

The accord, a capstone to President Bush's six-day tour of Europe and Russia, will for the first time give Moscow a role from the outset in NATO discussions about a fixed variety of topics, including nonproliferation, crisis management, missile defense and counterterrorism.

But in an indication that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's members are still not fully convinced that Russia has fully renounced aggression and cast its lot with Europe, Moscow will not be a member of the alliance or be bound by its collective defense pact, in which all members pledge to come to each other's defense if necessary.

Nor will Russia have a veto over NATO decisions or a vote in the expansion of its membership, including NATO's plans to invite in new nations — almost all of them once part of the Soviet bloc — at a meeting in Prague in November. As an indication of how far Moscow has traveled away from its past, it appears to have dropped objections to admitting even former Soviet Baltic republics.

Mr. Bush, attending the session at a NATO air base under extraordinary security before heading to the Vatican to meet the ailing Pope John Paul II, said today that "Two former foes are now joined as partners, overcoming 50 years of division and a decade of uncertainty."

Mr. Bush said today's formal agreement to create a NATO-Russia Council reflected the calculation that cooperation with the world's second largest nuclear power is "more likely to be achieved by welcoming Russia west."

The new council does not replace the North Atlantic Council, the body where NATO usually makes its decisions. If no consensus is reached in the new 20-nation council on the specific issues it is allowed to address, then NATO's 19 members reserve the right to withdraw the contentious topic from discussion.

Russia's president, Vladimir V. Putin, fresh from President Bush's three-day visit to Moscow and St. Petersburg, clearly reveled in the speed at which he had been able to negotiate both nuclear reductions and a position of respect in NATO's councils.

"The significance of this meeting is difficult to overestimate," said Mr. Putin, noting that a few years ago, the idea of Russia sitting at NATO councils "would have been, simply, unthinkable."

But Mr. Putin, who at his first meeting with Mr. Bush a year ago publicly raised the possibility of full Russian membership in NATO, also injected a note of caution.

"Being realists, we must remember that relations between Russia and the North Atlantic alliance have been historically far from straightforward," he said. Although Russia was not admitted as a full member — and may never be — Mr. Putin said that "we must understand this Rome Declaration represents only a beginning."

Some NATO officials have voiced concern that the new council is not substantive enough for Mr. Putin, and are now expressing relief that he has not only accepted it, but is also selling it hard to a still-skeptical Russian military and security apparatus. But the same NATO officials say that the more the alliance becomes a political talking shop instead of a military alliance, the better it could be for Moscow.

The new arrangement between Russia and the alliance replaces a 1997 accord, negotiated during the Clinton administration, that allowed Russia to participate in discussions with NATO only after all of the alliance's members had reached agreement on a common position.

Russia complained that the arrangement was a sham, because it made it appear that Moscow went along with policies it did not agree with and in fact had had no voice in shaping. The most contentious of these was the 1999 war with Yugoslavia over Kosovo, which prompted Russia to suspend its participation in discussions with NATO.

The 19 members of the organization concluded that the arrangement did too little to reflect both Russia's concerns and its influence.

Meeting with reporters this afternoon, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell agreed that while Russia and the United States were reducing their nuclear arsenals drastically, and cooperating in NATO, each country was maintaining "a hedge."

"We'll always have a hedge against uncertainty in the future, in our military forces in the nuclear weapons that the United States will continue to retain," he said. "It's a hedge against the future, because there are other nations that possess nuclear weapons or might come to possess nuclear weapons."

But Secretary Powell said that neither Russia nor NATO was now "looking for conflict."

"I don't think we're going to see a rerun of this movie," he said, referring to the cold war. "The movie didn't play well the first time, and I see no reason why any future Russian leader with a state that is only roughly 55 percent of the size of the old Soviet Union would find it in its interests in any way to try to act in an aggressive manner."

In fact, NATO's secretary general, Lord Robertson, was first among the parade of leaders to bury the cold war yet again, saying that "what's happening today turned completely on its head everything we've lived with up to now, because here is the Russian president as a equal."

Gerhard Schröder, the chancellor of Germany, said here today, "On the basis of our vast joint interests, we can conduct policies that guarantee security on the one hand and economic prosperity on the other."

That is clearly not the unanimous view in Moscow, where some of Mr. Putin's critics, mostly hard-liners, believe he is capitulating to the former enemy of the Warsaw Pact. They said as much in some conservative publications today, while the daily Kommersant gave voice to a view gaining some currency also in Washington that "Despite all of NATO's activity, the need for its existence prompts more and more doubt."

While Mr. Bush was in Russia, Mr. Putin made his calculations quite clear. The Russian leader does not want to talk endlessly about defense or nuclear weapons or arms control; he wants to talk about Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization, exporting Russian airplanes and making its broken, low-tech industries globally competitive.

"The president of Russia has to want to be a member of the W.T.O.," Mr. Putin said on Saturday when he and Mr. Bush fielded questions from students at St. Petersburg State University for an hour. But, catching himself with the recognition that opening up Russia's markets would put some Russians out of a job, he added, "on conditions acceptable to Russia."

Still, Mr. Putin has surprised many in Washington — including Secretary Powell and Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser — with his willingness to allow the West the kind of military latitude that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Putin allowed the United States to use military bases in former Soviet republics in Central Asia, and to train troops in Georgia to move against Chechen rebels based in the north of that former Soviet republic.

"This is a different Putin," Ms. Rice said the other day in a brief interview, after she had been invited along with the president to Mr. Putin's dinner at his home, and on a dinner cruise on the Neva River. "It's been very warm. This has not been your ordinary summit."

The new NATO-Russia Council was designed in part to allay Russian fears not only about alliance activities, but also its expansion.

"You can't surround the Russians with more and more NATO members and do nothing to ease the pain," one senior administration official said.

Secretary Powell said today that Russia would not be involved in "collective security arrangements," but that it would focus on "becoming a more active member of the Euro-Atlantic community." The arms control agreement signed by Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin on Friday in the Kremlin and today's accord should alleviate concerns in Moscow, Secretary Powell suggested.

Before he left the summit to see the pope this afternoon, Mr. Bush said: "I will tell him that I am concerned about the Catholic Church in America, I'm concerned about its standing. And I say that because the Catholic Church is an incredibly important institution in our country." Mr. Bush said he would also tell the pope that he appreciated his "leadership in trying to strengthen the Catholic Church in America."

Mr. Bush and the pope met for 20 minutes in private with no aides and no translators.

Later, Mr. Bush introduced the pope to several of his staff members, including Karl Rove, his political adviser; Ari Fleischer, his press secretary; Ms. Rice; and Secretary Powell. When Mr. Bush rose to leave, the pope said, "God bless America."


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