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Polish army accepting NATO rules; Russia demands treaty with alliance

January 22, 1997

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Poland’s top generals are complying _ albeit unhappily _ with new, NATO-required regulations for ensuring civilian control of the army, a defense official said Wednesday.

Countries aspiring to join the alliance must adhere to NATO standards, such as putting decisions on budgets, personnel and organizational matters in the hands of the civilian defense minister.

Poland, formerly a member of the Soviet-allied Warsaw Pact, began reforming its army in 1991. During the transformation, some 600 jobs at the general staff were cut.

``Obviously the general staff, which was affected the most strongly by the army reforms, cannot be happy about it,″ Deputy Defense Minister Andrzej Karkoszka told The Associated Press.

He said the regulations, which went into effect Dec. 6, will be reviewed in May after a six-month trial.

Karkoszka, a civilian, said he had difficult disputes with the chief of general staff, Gen. Tadeusz Wilecki, during the nine months it took to hammer out the rules.

Wilecki previously had been accused by some politicians of resisting the idea of civilian control of the army.

``It has all been settled and we reached an agreement,″ Karkoszka told said. ``The regulations could not have been put into life without the consent of General Wilecki.″

NATO intends to start naming proposed new members in July and admit them by 1999. Poland and two other former Warsaw Pact members, Hungary and the Czech Republic, are strong candidates.

An official at Wilecki’s press office confirmed there had been a lot of discussion over the new regulations ``but once they were signed there is no more discussion.

``The civilian control over the army is a fact and will continue,″ said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Wilecki, who was trained in Moscow, was appointed top general in August 1992 by former President Lech Walesa. The appointment was seen as Walesa’s effort to secure a tighter grip on the army.

Observers were expecting President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Walesa’s successor and a former communist, to fire Wilecki when he took office in December 1995. But it has not happened and the two seem to be on good terms.

Karkoszka said that Wilecki, who reports to Kwasniewski, would like to see more state funds for the strapped army, better prospects for development and better military knowledge and understanding from the civilian superiors.

Presidential spokesman Antoni Styrczula told the AP that Wilecki ``has accepted changes resulting from the new regulations and is aware that this is a regular practice in all NATO member countries.″

Janusz Onyszkiewicz, a former defense minister, said that Wilecki had often made statements about control over the army, ``and that was bad. But for some time now, he apparently better understands what a non-political army means and has kept a low profile.″

Russia is staunchly opposed to NATO’s plans to admit some members of the now defunct Warsaw Pact.

In Moscow on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said that Western leaders lied to Moscow earlier about NATO’s intentions, promising then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that the alliance would never admit Warsaw Pact members.

This time, he said, NATO must commit to a formal treaty with Russia defining the alliance’s post-Cold War relations with his nation.

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