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White House Defends New European Security Blueprint

By Paul Richter
and Doyle McManus

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON

Four days before President Clinton leaves for his first European summit meeting, the White House scrambled Tuesday to defend its new blueprint for East-West security and to mute Eastern European criticism that threatens to mar the coming week's events before they begin.

Facing 11th-hour complaints from Polish President Lech Walesa and others, the White House mobilized Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman John M. Shalikashvili and other senior officials to elaborate on details of the "Partnership for Peace" plan for gradually expanding NATO to accept some former antagonists.

Officials insisted the plan, which sets no timetable and few specific conditions for membership, is the best way to integrate Warsaw Pact countries into Europe without provoking an aggressive reaction from nationalist elements in Russia.

Swifter acceptance -- preferred by Hungarian, Czech and Polish officials -- would redivide Europe, heighten tensions and "could become a self-fulfilling prophecy of pessimism about Russia," Anthony Lake, Clinton's national security adviser, told reporters.

The late-hour White House blitz underscored the fact that many issues remain still unresolved days before a trip that could be crucial for the president's foreign policy. With this long-delayed debut European visit, Clinton must overcome European leaders' doubts about his commitment to their continent and his vision of how to ensure its stability.

Among other unsettled issues is whether Clinton will meet with Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk in Moscow and which members of the newly elected Russian Parliament he can see without straining his relationship with Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin. There were indications Tuesday that a meeting with Kravchuk may take place.

But the most urgent question remains how to avoid a lukewarm Eastern European endorsement of the NATO plan, which could begin Clinton's nine-day outing with embarrassment.

The White House marketing for the plan also includes presummit trips to Eastern Europe by Shalikashvili, U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright and National Security Council aide Charles Gati. The officials will meet with their counterparts in capitals of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.