Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 212

In a reversal on a now familiar theme, two Eastern European leaders have urged that countries seeking NATO membership be given a voice in talks on a political agreement between the Western alliance and Russia. Moscow has long sought — directly or indirectly — to influence NATO’s deliberations on the admission of new member-states from the former Soviet bloc. But following talks in Prague yesterday, the foreign ministers of Hungary and the Czech Republic tried to turn the tables. "For us NATO allies, it is very important that the debate with Russia not take place over our heads," Czech foreign minister Josef Zieleniec told a press conference. NATO, he said, should "have a system of consultation with the would-be members in this respect… It is our interest to have a statement and influence the position of NATO in these negotiations." (Reuter, November 11)

The Czech Republic and Hungary, along with Poland, are the top candidates for membership in a NATO induction process that is expected to begin in the middle of next year. The alliance has also been conducting negotiations with Russia in hopes of concluding a parallel political — or "charter" — agreement with Moscow. The Kremlin has worked aggressively to elevate the status of its talks with NATO above those of the Eastern Europeans, and by that means to influence or, preferably, to halt altogether the enlargement process. The statements made yesterday in Prague may reflect a more proactive policy by Eastern European leaders that is aimed at least in part at putting Moscow on the defensive.

Belarus Referendum Farcical, But Lukashenko’s Threats Serious.