En route to Washington on April 27 for talks with top U.S. officials, Russian first deputy prime minister Anatoly Chubais condemned plans to expand the NATO alliance and openly called upon the West to compensate Moscow for the damage Russia will sustain from NATO’s enlargement. Chubais told reporters that NATO enlargement is a "political blunder on the part of the West" and that the "attempt to isolate Russia and remove it from the civilized world is pointless and dangerous." In return, Chubais said, "Russia must be admitted into the WTO [World Trade Organization] and the G-7 [Group of Seven] must be transformed in a G-8." Chubais is scheduled to hold talks with U.S. vice president Al Gore and undersecretary of state Strobe Talbott, during which NATO enlargement is to be on the agenda. But the trip will also be devoted to economic and trade issues, and the delegation headed by Chubais is to meet with representatives of the IMF and World Bank. (Interfax, April 27)
Criticism of NATO was voiced by two other Russian leaders yesterday as well. During an official visit to Slovakia, Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin reiterated Moscow’s strong opposition to NATO’s plans and, without elaborating, warned that "Russia as a nuclear power cannot but respond to NATO’s expansion to the east." He also suggested that Slovakia aspires less ardently to NATO membership than do some of its Eastern European neighbors, a claim that seemed to be countered by Slovak president Michal Kovac’s reaffirmation of his country’s desire to join the Western alliance. (Interfax, Slovak Radio, April 28) And, in a letter to British prime minister John Major, Russian president Boris Yeltsin called for strengthening the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and suggested that a more potent OSCE is of greater importance to European security than is an agreement between Russia and NATO. Yeltsin’s written remarks were conveyed to reporters by Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky. (Interfax, April 28)
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