Chernomyrdin’s warning on the dangers of NATO enlargement coincided with a new offensive by leading Russian political figures in which they have stated publicly why they think the alliance’s plan to accept new members is a bad idea. Two leading reformers — presidential chief of staff Anatoli Chubais and Yabloko leader Grigori Yavlinsky — took up Chernomyrdin’s charge that enlargement would shift Russia’s domestic political landscape by strengthening the Communists and other hard-line forces while weakening the democrats. Sergei Shakhrai, also a leading member of Yeltsin’s staff, took a more strategic view, repeating Russian arguments that enlargement without consideration for Moscow’s interests would adversely affect both NATO itself and Europe’s security environment. Duma first deputy speaker Aleksandr Shokhin, addressing reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, chose appropriately to highlight the purported economic costs of enlargement. He quoted estimates that Western expenditures would total $70-80 billion, and, also like Chernomyrdin, said that Russia too would be forced to increase its defense spending in response. (Itar-Tass, February 3)
On February 2, while still in Davos, Chernomyrdin told Russian television that NATO enlargement would create a backlash that could worsen the investment climate for Western companies wanting to do business in Russia. (NTV, February 2) A similar type of warning was sounded on the same day in Sofia, where Russian ultra-nationalist Sergei Baburin warned authorities that any efforts by Bulgaria to join NATO would harm economic relations between the two countries. Baburin is deputy Duma chairman and a member of the lower house’s recently formed "Anti-NATO group." (Itar-Tass, February 2) Moscow had seemed previously to make clear that it would not allow differences over NATO enlargement to harm its broader political and, especially, economic relations with Eastern European or NATO states. The Kremlin appears more recently to have reversed these tactics, however. The threat to link economic and trade relations to the NATO membership issue seems ill-considered given Russia’s current economic troubles. It could also promote the very isolation that Moscow claims it wants to head off by opposing NATO enlargement.
Russia’s Interior Minister Promoted to Battle Economic Crime.