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    WASHINGTON, April 4, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent Alexander Bratersky) - Possible deployment of NATO military bases in its new member states has aroused disputes among US political experts. For example, one of the NATO new course's architects, former US Ambassador to NATO Robert Hunter is against it.

    In an interview with RIA Novosti, the US analyst said that "on the part of the West it would be wrong to deploy bases in Central Europe if this could affect cooperation between Russia and the West".

    Today NATO "does not have enemies on the European arena," he maintains.

    "If there is an enemy, it is terrorism caused by the developments in the Middle East," says the expert, who was US Ambassador to NATO in 1993-1998.

    On April 4th the North Atlantic Treaty Organization created in the early days of the Cold War celebrates the 55th anniversary since the signing of the Washington Treaty, which created basis for the organization. It was signed by leaders of 12 countries, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Great Britain, Canada and the USA.

    In response to the creation of NATO, the Soviet Union and its allies, countries of the socialist bloc, in May 1955 created the Warsaw Pact organization.

    In 1989 the Warsaw Pact was abolished, and later most of its former members joined NATO. Recently the alliance admitted seven new members, four of which earlier were members of the Warsaw Pact and three, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, were part of the USSR.

    Hunter believes that the bloc's further expansion will depend on different factors in the countries that would like to join it, including "democratization and their willingness to pursue the organization's goals." Jonathan Dean, US political expert and former diplomat, who was US official representative at talks between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in 1973-1983, doubts the expedience of further expansion.

    In June 1997 Dean and other prominent former politicians sent a letter to US President Bill Clinton speaking against the organization's further expansion. Instead, he proposed to "open broadly" doors to the European Union for Central and East European countries.

    Further NATO expansion by admitting former Soviet republics "does not evoke enthusiasm" of the alliance's leadership, Mr. Dean said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

    "Ukraine and Georgia want to join NATO, some Central Asian republics also show interest, but I do not see enthusiasm here or in Brussels concerning further expansion, though, of course, other republics of former Yugoslavia can receive an invitation," he pointed out.

    He believes that for new NATO member states the most important is not military participation in the bloc's structures, but assistance from "NATO older members." "This way new members are seeking to join the European Union's structures, they believe that NATO membership will advance their economic and political development," he maintains. These countries "will have to modernize their forces, and I do not think many of them can afford it," the expert concluded.

    "At the same time, I do not believe that old NATO members will spend their funds to do that," he added.

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