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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Vilnius Signs NATO Partnership Document

BRUSSELS -- Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas signed a partnership document with NATO on Thursday and said his former Soviet republic wanted full membership of the military alliance and other European bodies.


Brazauskas, fearful of a rise of Russian nationalism, said the entry of Baltic, Eastern and Central European states into NATO, the European Union and the Western European Union would stimulate reforms in these countries.


"We are convinced that that would significantly support the strengthening and continuity of democratic processes in Russia," he told a meeting of NATO ambassadors.


Brazauskas, in Brussels on a two-day visit, was meeting with European Commission President Jacques Delors later on Thursday and was expected to ask for closer ties with the EU. He was also due to see WEU chief Willem van Eekelen.


NATO Deputy Secretary General Amedeo de Franchis welcomed Lithuania's signing of the Partnership for Peace Framework Document, a scheme agreed at this month's NATO summit.


"The alliance has now opened a new chapter in its relations with countries of Central and Eastern Europe and in its efforts to enhance security and stability in Europe," de Franchis said.


The Partnership for Peace arrangement is aimed at encouraging greater cooperation between NATO and its old Warsaw Pact enemies, starting later this year with joint military exercises.


Romania signed a partnership document Wednesday and 15 other former Cold War foes have told NATO they want closer links with the alliance.


De Franchis told reporters that a NATO mission, consisting of ambassadors and experts, would go to Lithuania as early as next week to work out details of the partnership. But he said there was no timetable for Lithuania to join the military alliance.


"NATO has always been an open organization. We very recently stated that we would welcome and expect an expansion of NATO to the East in an evolutionary manner," he said.


NATO has been reticent about granting countries such as Lithuania unlimited access to the alliance, mainly because of strong opposition from Russia to such a move.


Brazauskas told NATO that neither military cooperation between the Baltic states nor his request for NATO membership should be seen as a threat to Russia or other European states.


"Lithuania has no territorial claims on her neighbors," Brazauskas said.


He criticized Russia for claiming a security interest in the Baltic states.


"Statements about Russia's special interests in the Baltic states are especially difficult to understand if only because Lithuania and the other Baltic states were never a legitimate part of the U.S.S.R.," he said.