NATO inched tentatively toward expansion yesterday when it convened representatives of the 27 countries that have joined the Partnership for Peace program (PfP). Alliance spokesmen suggested that attendees of the Brussels meeting would be given a chance to indicate formally their desire to join NATO. That step will be followed by submission of discussion papers and regular attendance at meetings with NATO specialists to consider how best to move toward compatibility with NATO practices and hardware. Individual dialogues between NATO and prospective members are to begin by April of this year. Final conclusions–presumably regarding which applicants will continue on the path toward membership–are to be drawn by December. However, a NATO spokesman confirmed that expansion will not happen quickly when he said that convening the talks implied no commitment to membership by either side. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, reportedly attended a portion of the meeting. Russia is a PfP member, but has repeatedly criticized plans for expansion of the alliance. (4)
Top Officials Confirm Economic Policy Will Change.