Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 133

In a move of historical significance for Europe, NATO leaders meeting yesterday in Spain invited Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join the Western alliance. The event marked yet another milestone in the political restructuring of the post-Cold War world, and also, as Polish prime minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz expressed it, the "end of the Yalta order in Europe." Cimoszewicz was referring to the 1945 agreement that consigned Eastern Europe to the Soviet sphere of influence. Reading from an official declaration, NATO secretary general Javier Solana announced that the allies’ goal is to admit the three new members in April, 1999, on the occasion of the alliance’s 50th anniversary. The declaration also referred to Slovenia and Romania as prime candidates for the next round of enlargement, and gave favorable mention to the Baltic states — though without mentioning Estonia, Lithuania, or Latvia individually — as "aspiring members." The document also underlined that NATO remains "open to new members" and that it expects to issue additional invitations in the years to come.

The specifics of yesterday’s decision represented a hard-fought compromise between one group of NATO countries, led by the U.S., which wanted to limit this round of expansion to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, and another group, led by France, which insisted on membership for Slovenia and Romania as well. As the first side held firm, and because all NATO decisions must be taken by consensus, that debate eventually devolved into one over the language that would be used to describe, among other things, the extent of the alliance’s official commitment to the candidacies of Romania and Slovenia. (Reuter, AP, UPI, July 8)

Not unexpectedly, Moscow took a dour view of the proceedings in Madrid. Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov, speaking to reporters in the Russian capital, restated Moscow’s opposition to enlargement and also its view that NATO’s plans constitute "possibly the biggest mistake made since the end of the Cold War." Russian deputy prime minister Valery Serov, who heads the Russian delegation to the NATO summit (and who co-chairs a Russian-Spanish trade and economic commission), spoke in similar terms, declaring that his presence at the summit in no way signifies Moscow’s approval of the alliance’s expansion plans. (Russian agencies, July 8) Despite signing a political agreement with NATO in late May, Moscow has repeatedly made clear its intention to continue the struggle against NATO’s enlargement. It has also threatened to break relations with the Western alliance in the event that any former Soviet republics are extended membership invitations, and will undoubtedly react negatively to the reference in yesterday’s NATO declaration to the Baltic states.

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