U.S. assistant secretary of state Richard Holbrooke assured Polish leaders in Warsaw February 7 that strong Russian opposition to NATO expansion would not affect the schedule for admitting new alliance members from Eastern Europe. Holbrooke’s remarks came amid suspicions in Poland that the recent spy scandal which forced the resignation of Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy was engineered by Russia to undermine Poland’s chances for NATO membership. The assistant secretary of state also reportedly issued a veiled warning to Moscow not to interfere in Poland’s internal affairs. (2) Suspicions of Russian intelligence activity aimed at thwarting NATO membership have also appeared in the Czech Republic; the press office of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service was forced February 7 to deny that it has been involved in any such operations. (3)
Whether such suspicions are justified remains highly conjectural, but it does seem to be true that Moscow’s furious public campaign to halt NATO expansion has led some in Eastern Europe to wonder about the West’s resolve. Holbrooke’s assurances to Polish leaders were reportedly directed at least in part to dispel fears that today’s meeting between U.S. secretary of state Warren Christopher and Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov might result in a weakening of the U.S. commitment to NATO expansion. Some Eastern European participants at the recent Wehrkunde defense conference in Munich (See Monitor, February 5) were also reportedly left uneasy by the remarks of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who spoke in sympathetic terms of Russia’s discomfort with NATO enlargement. (4) Kohl will travel to Moscow for talks with the Russian leadership February 18-21.
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