NATO: Alliance reaches the Black Sea

ANSA English Media Service
March 30, 2004



By Gaetano Stellacci

(ANSA) – VIENNA, March 30 – The enlargement of NATO to 26
states after the accession of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia,
Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria has moved the
alliance’s eastern border hundreds of kilometres from the Baltic
to the Black Sea.

The thousand kilometre-long line between the 25th and 30th
meridians from the Baltic to the Black Sea, two thirds of which
now wash the shores of NATO physically separates western Europe
from the rest of the Eurasian continent.

Apart from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova on the east,
NATO’s southern borders reach the states of central Asia,
including Iran, Georgia, Armenia, Iraq and Syria. Italy is no
longer the western NATO border, which has moved southeast to
Slovenia. The former Yugoslav states have also shown their
interest in joining the North Atlantic Pact.

The new southern border means a border of poverty both for
NATO and the EU. Unemployment in Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova
has reached 70 percent. Problems and despair more often force
people to drug abuse and alcoholism to whuich are added the
recurrence of tuberculosis and the growing problem of the
AIDS/HIV virus.

NATO will become responsible for the air security of the
Baltic states from Tuesday. Belgium has already sent its first
team of four patrol aircraft. Italy has taken over the
protection of the air space of Slovenia, which has remained
without an airforce since its separation from Yugoslavia.

The danger of increased tension with Russia which borders
Lithuania and Estonia will be diffused by NATO and was not a
subject for NATO’s new Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer,
despite alarms raised in Moscow.

NATO aircraft are capable of flying the distance between
Estonia and St Petersburg in seven minutes, Russian Defence
Minister Sergei Ivanov said.

Russian leaders seem to dislike even more the enlargement of
the EU which will include Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia,
Hungary and the Baltic states in May, all of them former Soviet
satellites which have retained their economic relations with
Russia after the fall of communism.

Their accession to the common European market will make these
relations with Russia weaker. Economic experts in Moscow believe
this will cause damage worth 150 million euro a year.

Initially the seven new NATO members will contribute about
175,000 soldiers from their regular forces and 3,000 tanks, most
of them obsolete. The seven former communist states, however,
are also the most faithful adherents of the U.S. military
doctrine and when Europe split over the Iraqi crisis all of them
supported Washington. (ANSA)