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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Solana Urges Updated View of NATO


MADRID -- NATO chief Javier Solana, warning that Russia's elections in June could produce an unexpected swing, told Moscow on Friday to face 1996 realities and realize the Atlantic alliance is no longer its Cold War foe.

"The clock has to be reset," Solana told a Spanish state television interviewer. "I'm sure the Russian federation will be able to reset its clocks -- I hope so," he added.

"Russia still has an idea of the Atlantic alliance which is more in line with the 1950s, with the Cold War. What I'm trying to show [them] is that today's is a very different alliance."

But the NATO Secretary-General said he doubted whether Moscow would think more calmly about NATO's plans for eastward expansion, which the Russians have described as a threat, before the presidential elections in June. He warned that the outcome of the vote, pitting President Boris Yeltsin against Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, who currently leads in opinion polls, was very much open.

"The election could produce a major [negative] shift, a much more important change than one would expect," Solana said.

Yeltsin, who is seeking support from all sectors of society to prevent what he says is the risk of a return to Russia's communist past, has long taken a tough line against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's plans to expand, fearing it would threaten Russia's security.

Solana failed to sway Yeltsin over NATO's plans during a recent Moscow visit but said he hoped relations would eventually improve. "We would like to have as close a bilateral relationship as possible between the Atlantic alliance and the Russian federation," he said.

General Viktor Samsonov, chief of staff for the coordination of military cooperation in the Commonwealth of Independent States, said Thursday the group's defense ministers had united in opposition to NATO enlargement at a summit on Wednesday and may forge a joint policy.

Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev identified NATO enlargement as the biggest security threat to the CIS at Wednesday's summit in Moscow. He called for the CIS states to "coordinate positions" on the problem.

Yeltsin suggested during a visit to Norway on Monday that Moscow might accept the former Warsaw Pact member states' accession to NATO's political organization if they were kept out of its military structures.

In other developments in the region, legislators in Vilnius approved a joint military exercise, called Amber Valley '96, to begin April 22 and continue for a month at a military base in Lithuania. Ten American officers will train troops of the King Mindaugas Motorized Infantry Battalion as part of the Baltic state's participation in the Partnership for Peace program.

The exercise will follow a visit by Solana to Lithuania on April 16. Solana will also visit Latvia and Estonia, which have repeatedly expressed their intention to join NATO, a stance that has raised hackles in Moscow.

Communist parliamentarian Viktor Ilyukhin, chairman of the State Duma security committee, said Friday that his party "was following this issue very carefully and very attentively. It is painful for us, and we wouldn't want anyone to aggravate it and cause us further pain." The Amber Valley exercises, however, were a relatively minor event, Ilyukhin said. ()