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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Presses NATO in Spite of Russia

MUNICH -- U.S. Defense Minister William Perry has insisted that NATO would press ahead with plans to admit new members from Eastern Europe despite Russian objections.

"NATO enlargement is inevitable and if NATO enlargement is the carrot encouraging reforms, then we cannot keep that carrot continually out of reach," he said Sunday at the annual Wehrkunde meeting of defense experts in Munich.

Perry's comments came a day after Russian Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin warned that NATO's embrace of Eastern Europe could spark a backlash against reforms in his country by sharpening Moscow's suspicions of the alliance's intentions.

Ordinary Russians feel deep mistrust of proposals to let the new democracies of the former Soviet bloc join the Western military alliance, Kokoshin told the Wehrkunde meeting Saturday.

"This is a historical injustice. We have retreated to the east and NATO is advancing in the same direction, pushing us further and further east," he said.

But Kokoshin took a relaxed approach to Perry's comments Sunday, saying the exchange in Munich was constructive and useful even though he could not agree NATO expansion was unavoidable.

"That is one of the points on which we disagree," he told reporters with a laugh. "But at the same time this disagreement is not blocking our cooperation in many other areas."

Perry contended that NATO membership for emerging East European democracies could actually boost Moscow's security in the post-Cold War era.

He said he had told Russian officials that a healthy NATO working together with Russia would keep the United States involved in European security, keep Germany bound into the security architecture and avoid isolating Moscow.

"NATO, far from being a threat to Russia, actually contributes to the security of Russia as well as the security of its own members," he said, but added: "When I reached that conclusion, most of the Russians I talked to fell off the cliff."

German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said Monday that with elections looming, he did not expect NATO to make any progress this year in trying to persuade Russia to accept East European countries joining the alliance.

"I presume nothing is going to happen in 1996 in view, amongst other things, of the [presidential] election in Russia. And then we have the [presidential] election in the United States," Kinkel told German Radio.

He added that Yeltsin had given him the impression that the Russian election in June was a further consideration in Moscow's reluctance to see NATO enlarged, alongside basic security worries.

But Kinkel added: "We have decided which way we will go and we want to keep moving ahead cautiously, while taking account of Russia's concerns."