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    NATO EXPANSION TO NECESSITATE CHANGES IN RUSSIAN MILITARY STRATEGY-DEFENSE MINISTER IVANOV (UPDATE)

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    OSLO, April 4, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - NATO's eastward expansion, most notably its buildup in the former Soviet republics of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, will necessitate some changes in the Russian military strategy, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said during a stopover in the Norwegian capital, en route to the United States.

    "Four NATO aircraft policing the airspace (over the Baltic member nations) won't make any fundamental difference. But if NATO continues to build up its arsenal, Russia will have to change its military strategies accordingly," the minister pointed out.

    Of course, the sovereign Baltic states have every right to have NATO aircraft safeguard their airspace, Mr. Ivanov said. It should be taken into account, however, that NATO planes can develop high speeds and that Russia's border with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia is a meandering one. NATO air patrols therefore raise the probability of Russian airspace violations, he said.

    The need for the NATO military infrastructure to come so close to the Russian borders cannot possible be explained by the threat of terrorism. This would be a "ludicrous" argument, all the more since Russia has cut its northwestern force by over 40 percent now, Mr. Ivanov pointed out.

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