Brussels diaryby Manneken Pis / November 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
Published in November 1996 issue of Prospect Magazine
Time to check out the serious action in Brussels. Down at Nato headquarters, the brass hats are proving that there’s life after the end of the cold war. Ask their most famous recruit, a sheepish Russian general by the name of Shevtsov.
For almost 12 months, Leontiy Shevtsov has been strolling round top secret installations, like the planning HQ in Mons and the golf course at Zaventem. Nato is happy. Shevtsov is happy. Everybody is too polite to ask the obvious question: if this is an exchange, when do we get to send one of our boys to Moscow?
Having Shevtsov stick around for a few more months may not be a bad idea because Nato is heading for trouble with the Russians. A minor matter known as enlargement. By the middle of next year, the alliance will announce its plans to admit at least three new members: most likely, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Enlargement means pushing the west’s defensive parameter up to Russia’s borders. A new line is being drawn across Europe.
The Russians have blown hot and cold on enlargement. One day, they dispatch Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov. He is a sinister former KGB man who knows how to bully Javier Solana, the former Spanish foreign minister who is a little too nice to be a Nato secretary general. But the next day, would-be Russian president Aleksander Lebed turns up in Brussels and charms everybody by appearing to accept the principle that Nato is a club which has the right to choose its own members. But even Lebed is vague about the terms which Moscow will accept.
What’s going on? The best guess is that the Russians will give way on enlargement, just like they did on German reunification. There will be a price, but it should be manageable. That will upset the teenage scribblers on The Times editorial pages and all the other defeatists who have been writing Nato’s obituary. Meanwhile, Nato’s new lease of life should at least shame the EU into remembering that it has ma…