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Russia warns Nato of new arms race


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IF LAST week?s ceremony in Washington to welcome seven new members to Nato had been a marriage service there would have been a loud objection from the back of the church.

In no uncertain terms Russia has made plain its view that the new partners should "not lawfully be joined together", and last week defence minister Sergei Ivanov even warned that he might order a build-up of the country?s nuclear defences.

Moscow?s icy blast came as "instruments of accession" to Nato were signed by the prime ministers of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia in Washington.

It is Nato?s biggest enlargement ever. But the alliance is in no mood to compromise. Hardly was the ink dry on the accession documents than it dispatched four F-16 fighters to Lithuania to provide air policing over the three Baltic states, which have been without any warplanes since they broke from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The deployments added to Russia?s growing sense of unease about the eastward expansion of its former Cold War enemy.

While President Vladimir Putin has appeared relaxed, the most strident note has been struck by the lower house of the Duma, which passed a resolution calling for Russia to reconsider its defence strategy if Nato continued to ignore Moscow?s interests.

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