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German commentary warns against giving Russia veto in NATO decisions
Text of commentary by Nikolaus Blome: "Cuddling in the Kremlin" by German newspaper Die Welt web site on 25 November

No cynicism intended: NATO has a problem. It is there for defence, and it has proven itself in the best possible way. But now - when once again defence is needed - it is suddenly no longer in demand. The coalition against terror looked for different forms and forums. Whether justified or not, the old alliance stands apart.

One can take notice of that with more or less chagrin. Yet the alliance should not become an arbitrary poker chip for some world leaders. However, precisely that can no longer be ruled out, should the British prime minister have his way. Tony Blair has outlined the course for the alliance: an out-and-out interlocking of NATO and Russia. And Secretary-General Robertson is officially making inquiries in Moscow. But cuddling in the Kremlin, that remains a risky matter.

Naturally, NATO is to develop ever better relations with Russia. Especially since 11 September, security in the world is more easily achieved with Moscow than without. Both sides, with good reason, have undertaken many things in 10 years to create mutual trust. Brussels offered a maximum of cooperation, not only to reconcile Russia with the first NATO expansion to the East. But the red line remained clear: it ran between "to also have a say" and "to co-decide". The 19 alliance partners did not want to concede the latter to the Russian partners, and why should they? In joint deployments such as in the Balkans, each side had the right to say "No" - but only for its own side and not for the other. Thus NATO and Russia, from case to case, acted seeing eye to eye, and they did not fare badly with it.

Now, however, Secretary-General Robertson seems to cross this red line. It is vaguely said that, on certain subjects, NATO could grant the Russians a kind of vote and veto power. That would be totally unworldly: a bit of a veto is as impossible as being a bit pregnant. Namely, the veto alone distinguishes members from non-members - no matter whether Russia's President Putin wants to officially join NATO or not. From this results: there are only two possibilities. Either NATO makes Russia a member, or it does not. It should not.

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