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Treaties with Russia may slow NATO entry

Although Foreign Ministry officials claim that Slovakia's 73 official treaties with Russia won't halt the country's integration into western alliances, political scientists and diplomats say some of the agreements - like those which require the sharing of military intelligence - may make the road westward longer than expected.
In 1993, independent Slovakia inherited 43 treaties and agreements with Russia which had been signed by the former Czechoslovak government. Thirty-one new treaties have been signed since then, most of them under former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, who favoured close relations between the two countries.
Since taking office in November, the new Slovak government has analysed 60 of the treaties, Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Kukan said at a press conference in late February. None of them was found to present a serious stumbling block to joining Western alliances, and the nation will let them stand untouched unless directly asked to change them, he said.

Although Foreign Ministry officials claim that Slovakia's 73 official treaties with Russia won't halt the country's integration into western alliances, political scientists and diplomats say some of the agreements - like those which require the sharing of military intelligence - may make the road westward longer than expected.

In 1993, independent Slovakia inherited 43 treaties and agreements with Russia which had been signed by the former Czechoslovak government. Thirty-one new treaties have been signed since then, most of them under former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, who favoured close relations between the two countries.

Since taking office in November, the new Slovak government has analysed 60 of the treaties, Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Kukan said at a press conference in late February. None of them was found to present a serious stumbling block to joining Western alliances, and the nation will let them stand untouched unless directly asked to change them, he said.

"The Slovak government has no intention to cancel or change any of the treaties with the Russian Federation, as they do not thwart Slovakia's international priorities, predominantly its ambitions to accede to EU and NATO," he said.

Political scientists, however, warn that some changes may be necessary. The close relationship between the nations under Mečiar, after all, caused western alliances to back away from Slovakia. Regaining this may take a considerable time, they said.

"No one doubts that we [Slovakia] should belong to Euro-Atlantic structures, but thanks to the concentrated activities of the former [Mečiar] government in strengthening the country's dependence on Russia, western countries watch us more carefully," said Milan Resutík, a former Slovak Ambassador to Romania.

Miroslav Kusý, a political scientist with Comenius University in Bratislava, agreed, adding that Mečiar's orientation towards Russia was one of the reasons why Slovakia was left out of EU and NATO entry vanguards in 1997.

Some problems stem from economic agreements concluded by Mečiar. For example, Slovakia will remain dependent on Russian oil and gas until 2014 due to contracts signed during the Mečiar era, Kusý said.

But the most problematic treaties deal with military and technical cooperation. One of the most disputed is the treaty on military cooperation between the Russian and Slovak Defence Ministries signed on August 26, 1993. The treaty stipulates that both sides can use the countries' airports for the landing of military passenger planes.

Another provision stipulates that each side will inform the other of the acquisition of new weapons and military technologies and equipment. Neither side can back out of the treaty until 2003 at the earliest.

In 1997, the countries signed more two such treaties, one of which required that confidential intelligence information be shared. Another treaty, signed in 1995, dealt with the use and protection of Russian secret codes.

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jaroslav Chlebo explained that the unacceptable parts of the treaties would have to be adjusted to meet Slovakia's integration interests, but that would require approval from the Russians as well. "Interpretation of the treaties has to be agreed upon by both sides," he said.

Slovakia would have to respect Russia's demand that it live up to the terms of the treaties, he said.

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