Against a background of hard-line statements out of the Kremlin on the subject of NATO enlargement, U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright yesterday did some tough talking of her own. During a briefing for reporters in Washington, Albright underlined that NATO’s expansion would go forward regardless of any Russian objections and declared that neither she nor U.S. president Bill Clinton would "bargain away" the interests of the Central European states during the upcoming Russian-U.S. summit in Helsinki. Albright also asserted that enlargement would proceed this summer whether or not Russia and the Western alliance are able to negotiate a political agreement by that time. But Albright, whose remarks appeared to be aimed at rebuffing a recent series of bellicose remarks by Russian president Boris Yeltsin, also emphasized that Moscow should not look at the summit or European security issues as a "zero-sum game," and should not throw away the opportunity to work in partnership with Washington and the West. "We do not face a choice between diminishing NATO or diminishing Russia," she said. "It is not 1949 or 1989." (Reuter, UPI, March 18)
U.S. officials have in recent days stated publicly on several occasions that Washington opposes both the placing of any limits on the number of countries eligible to join NATO and the notion that new member states be granted something less than full NATO membership. Moscow has lobbied aggressively for both these sets of restrictions, and the Russian efforts have generated fears in some Eastern European and Baltic capitals that the West could negotiate a security arrangement with Russia at their expense. Indeed, Polish foreign minister Dariusz Rosati said recently that Warsaw is particularly alarmed over the possibility that NATO and Russia could reach a quick agreement on a joint consultative mechanism that might begin operation as early as this year. Since new member states will not be admitted into NATO until at least 1999 — and that only after what could be a difficult ratification process in NATO legislatures — Rosati and other East European officials fear that the new consultative forum could provide Russia with a platform to obstruct at every turn the formal induction of new members. (The Washington Post, March 17)
The Other Shoe Drops for the Paratroopers.