In a display of tough talking during the runup to an October 9-10 meeting of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Russian president Boris Yeltsin on October 3 urged Europeans to resist interference from the U.S. and to unite in a common effort to solve Europe’s problems. In an obvious swipe at Washington, Yeltsin said in an interview with French and Russian TV journalists that "we don’t need any ‘uncle’ from outside; we in Europe are ourselves capable of uniting in a serious manner and living normally whatever the circumstances." He urged "all Europeans to unite in one large Europe without any dividing lines." Yeltsin’s admonitions reprised remarks that he had made on September 18, when he said that he would call during his visit to Strasbourg for a reduced U.S. presence on the continent. Yeltsin complained at that time that Washington exerts too great an influence on European affairs, particularly through the NATO military alliance. (See Monitor, September 19)
Yeltsin’s mention of a Europe without "dividing lines" also reiterated Moscow’s opposition to NATO’s enlargement and to the emergence of the alliance as Europe’s foremost security structure. Although he praised the functioning of the recently formed Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council in his October 3 remarks, Yeltsin also restated Moscow’s long-standing call for NATO to transform itself from a military into a political organization, and warned that NATO’s failure to do so could ultimately lead to new confrontations with Moscow. In that event the Kremlin would have to consider the creation of "another eastern bloc," Yeltsin said, "but we are not interested in that." (Russian agencies, AP, Russian Public TV, NTV, October 3)
Yeltsin’s message, which was also enunciated last week by Russia’s prime minister and defense minister during visits to the Netherlands, comes as the Western Alliance struggles to overcome internal differences on the requirements of enlargement. It also comes amid tensions between Washington and its allies on trade policy — particularly with regard to Iran. Russian leaders are reveling over Moscow’s participation in the French-Iranian gas deal that has most recently stoked those tensions (see Monitor, October 2), and seem intent on exploiting the resultant discord to the greatest degree possible.
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