Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 171

In a development with implications for Russia’s relations with the West, Polish leaders were said to be heartened September 12 following an endorsement from French president Jacques Chirac for Polish membership in NATO and the EU. During a speech before both houses of the Polish parliament, Chirac said that the process of Poland’s "irreversible" entry into NATO should begin next year. The French president also proposed that Warsaw take part in preparations for next year’s NATO Summit, which is likely to take place in June or July. Chirac’s support and the timetable that he set out were of special importance to Warsaw because of a perception there that Paris remains ambivalent about NATO and EU expansion.

Poland’s hopes for an expeditious entry into NATO were given an additional boost by German chancellor Helmut Kohl, who telephoned Polish president Aleksandr Kwasniewski only minutes before Chirac’s speech and made a similar offer of support. Kwasniewski afterward suggested that the actual induction of new NATO members was likely to occur in 1999, when the alliance celebrates its 50th anniversary. He also reportedly rejected calls by Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine that a nuclear free zone be established in Central Europe, arguing that NATO membership "means sharing all the values and the risks of the alliance." (Reuter, UPI, Xinhua, September 12) Kwasniewski’s declaration was to some degree academic; NATO leaders have made increasingly clear the alliance’s disinclination to station nuclear weapons in new Eastern European member states.

The assurances offered to Kwasniewski by Chirac and Kohl appeared to be in line with those proposed by U.S. secretary of state Warren Christopher during his September 6 speech in Germany, and they were undoubtedly heard with great interest in Moscow. Indeed, a concern for Russian sensibilities was evident in Chirac’s speech. He warned against allowing NATO’s expansion to isolate Russia, and said that Moscow should be invited to next year’s NATO summit along with alliance members and aspirants. Chirac also spoke in general terms of the need to reform the Western alliance before enlarging it, and called for a concomitant strengthening of the OSCE. (Itar-Tass, UPI, September 12) Those proposals, which are part of France’s broader goal of strengthening the "European pillar" in the continent’s still-evolving post-Cold War security architecture, have in their most general form also been embraced by Moscow.

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