Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 126

Russia’s newly named ambassador to Romania yesterday wasted no time in making clear Moscow’s ongoing opposition to NATO’s enlargement plans. Using some of the strongest language heard recently to set out Moscow’s views, Valery Keneikin underlined especially Russia’s determination to ensure that none of the former Soviet republics wins membership in the Western alliance. Keneikin told a gathering of journalists, diplomats and politicians in Bucharest that Moscow continues to see NATO as an “anachronism.” Moscow is not, he said, receptive to the entry into NATO of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania or other states. “But there is a line beyond which we cannot agree to or tolerate NATO expansion,” Keneikin added. “And that means membership for former Soviet republics. If new realities emerge on this, then Russia will have to reexamine thoroughly its relationship to NATO.”

Keneikin was more diplomatic in his comments on Romania’s ambitions to join NATO. He said he would not exaggerate any negative impact that Romanian membership in NATO might have on Russian security. But he also said that “it is apparent that Romania’s intention to seek NATO membership is not because of any threat from Russia.” (Reuter, June 30)

That sort of ambivalence is reflected yet again Moscow’s struggle to deal with the ambitions of Eastern European states to join NATO. Moscow has occasionally tried, on the one hand, to intimidate these countries into foregoing membership. On the other hand, and mindful of the need to build friendly relations with its eastern neighbors, Moscow has at other times suggested that NATO membership would not have a seriously adverse impact on its relations with these countries.

Reasoning of that sort appeared during talks between the Russian and Polish presidents in Moscow earlier this week. Although Poland is poised to become a member of NATO, both sides emphasized their desire to improve bilateral relations. President Boris Yeltsin announced that he would visit Warsaw in December. (See the Monitor, June 30) Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov made the same point in remarks yesterday. Following his own talks with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Primakov said that Russian-Polish relations should not be viewed exclusively in the context of Warsaw’s approaching membership in NATO. And Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valery Nesterushkin, on an official visit to Warsaw, said that Russia was confident that Poland would always look eastward as well as westward in its foreign policy making. (Russian agencies, June 30)

If Moscow is no closer to a consistent policy in dealing with Eastern Europe and NATO, however, it is making ever clearer its intention to fight NATO membership for former Soviet states. Russian leaders have now threatened repeatedly that they will consider renouncing the NATO-Russia partnership agreement–signed last May in Paris–should the alliance expand into former Soviet territory. That would suggest that military contacts and the still modest cooperation between NATO and Russia in such areas as Bosnian peacekeeping would be threatened. Moscow hopes that this sort of threat will deter NATO from offering membership to former Soviet states.