Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 19

At least portions of this revised strategy toward Eastern Europe appeared to be in evidence on January 24 when Russia’s ambassador to the Czech Republic warned that Prague’s entry into the NATO alliance could lead to a deterioration in trade relations between the two countries. Speaking to reporters following a meeting of a Czech-Russian intergovernmental commission on trade and cooperation, Nikolai Ryabov disparaged NATO as fundamentally a military organization and a remnant of the Cold War. He said that the Czech Republic’s entry into NATO could not help but have a negative impact on bilateral relations, and urged Prague to reconsider its NATO accession plans. (Itar-Tass, January 24) Like Avdeev, Ryabov was appointed to his current post last November. The Czech Republic is considered a sure bet to be among the former Warsaw Pact countries invited to join NATO at the Western alliance’s upcoming Summit meeting, scheduled for July in Madrid.

Immediately following his appointment last year Ryabov had also referred to differences between Russia and the Czech Republic on the issue of NATO enlargement. But he had chosen then to highlight what he said was Moscow’s respect for the sovereign choices made by Eastern European countries and the Kremlin’s disinclination to let differences over NATO harm broader relations with those countries. Ryabov said that, as ambassador, he would work to ensure that Russia was viewed in the region not as the former Soviet Union, but as a new, democratic government. And, despite Prague’s intentions of joining NATO, Ryabov called then for increased Russian arms exports to the Czech Republic. (Interfax, November 15) Since then, Prague has said it will not purchase Russian arms, and Moscow has apparently opted for a harder tone in dealing with those countries seeking NATO membership.

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