Latvian president Guntis Ulmanis yesterday called for "greater openness" in U.S.-Russian talks on NATO’s enlargement and European security. Ulmanis expressed concern lest Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin seek a "compromise which would make the Baltic states the losers" at the upcoming Helsinki summit. He ruled out bilateral negotiations with Russia on security guarantees for Latvia and any form of "returning to somebody’s sphere of influence." Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs in turn called for "transparency" at the Helsinki summit and for a U.S. and NATO reaffirmation of the Baltic states’ right to join the alliance in a follow-up round of enlargement. "The West would contradict its own declared principles if it agreed to exclude Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania from NATO as a condition for enlarging the alliance and if it turns the ex-USSR’s territory into a zone of potential reintegration with Russia."
In a special statement, Latvia’s Foreign Ministry urged that the Helsinki summit "not provide a basis for speculations or doubts regarding the Baltic states’ right to freely choose their place in the security system." It objected to "attempts to use the NATO-Russia dialogue for pressing upon Latvia security solutions which contradict its interests and choice." In Vilnius, parliament chairman Vytautas Landsbergis yesterday appealed to Washington "not to agree to Russian claims that Lithuania is a country with limited sovereignty" in terms of choosing its allies. The Helsinki summit ought to rule out "a Russian override on this issue that would determine our future life," Landsbergis urged. On the other hand, Estonian foreign minister Toomas Ilves yesterday played down that possibility on the grounds that such deals "are not part of U.S. political practice." (BNS, Itar-Tass, March 14-17)
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