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NATO Chief Prepares for `Political' Role for Alliance

MANFRED WORNER, secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is preparing for what he calls one of NATO's ``greatest goals'' - the overcoming of the division of Europe. Meanwhile, Mr. W"orner is considering an informal invitation to visit Moscow, extended by Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze during his unprecedented visit to NATO headquarters. W"orner spoke with the Monitor following last week's meeting of NATO foreign ministers.

Wouldn't some sort of regular consultation between NATO and the Warsaw Pact be one way of encouraging security in Europe?

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That would require a Warsaw Pact that would be comparable, that would be equal in its structure, and in its substance and values, to ours. ... It is not an organization with equal partnership and self-determination, and with a purely defensive posture. ... The only thing I am sure of is that, if it remains like it is, it will not exist a few years from now.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has shifted from advocating dissolution of the two alliances to supporting their continuation. Is there a similar desire among NATO leaders for maintaining the Warsaw Pact?

I really think that we should not play a sort of guarantor of the Warsaw Pact. We should not mix ourselves in their affairs. That's a risky business. [But] looking at how some of our leaders feel, I tend to think that many of them look at it as a possible factor of stability; but for all of them, only under the condition that it change.

How do you see the US presence in Europe?

[Europeans] know that they need the Americans. Who can balance the natural legitimate desire of the Germans for unification, the concerns of [their] neighbors, and the legitimate security concerns of the Soviets? Who can balance it, who can handle it, if not the United States, together with its allies?

President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker call for a heightened political role for NATO. How do you respond to those who say such talk is unclear, that such a transition would be difficult for a military alliance?

I have my difficulties with such observations. If you look at the last year of this alliance, what did we deal with? Mostly political substance. The [NATO] summit of [May] 1989, which really turned toward the future, opened up political issues, not defense issues. We've spent 80 percent of our time in the last months on East-West relations, and not only [on] military matters. Arms control, ``Open Skies,'' CFE [conventional forces in Europe], the political context among our member countries, I cannot see why people doubt this is a political alliance. It's not a question of defending your own existence or [looking] for new reasons of existence. Everybody knows that without this alliance there would be no foundation for policy in Europe.

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How should NATO approach public opinion that appears to be moving swiftly in favor of reduced defense spending?

It's understandable that more and more people think that confrontation is dead. But it's clearly an anticipated state of things that we have not yet reached. There is a gap unfolding ... But I want our leadership to educate that, historically, a period of transition is also a period of high risk and instability. It doesn't make sense to work from an old notion of threat, people won't believe you. But you can demonstrate to them that [they need] a kind of insurance policy.

You have expressed personal concerns that Western assistance to the East not obscure economic disparities within NATO ...

I'm a little disappointed by the lack of progress. Of course there is some small development, but we have not come very far with those less-developed nations inside the alliance. ... These are our allies and still they need our assistance.

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