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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Stern in NATO Talks

NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said Thursday that he failed to budge President Boris Yeltsin in his opposition to eastward expansion of the alliance to include former Soviet satellites.

Yeltsin emphasized his unwillingness to shift on the issue at the beginning of a meeting of about an hour with Solana, saying Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov "has left little time for me, but I was told he was too mild with you. That is why I will word our position more strongly," Interfax reported.

Asked at a press conference if he had heard anything during his meetings with Yeltsin and other top Russian officials that indicated any change in Russia's opposition to expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Solana said, "I cannot answer your question positively.

"We have debated the security architecture of Europe, but I have to tell you the truth that our positions as far as the enlargement of NATO is concerned are different," he said. "As of today the position of the Russian authorities is the same as they had yesterday."

This position was outlined earlier in the day by Yeltsin's spokesman, Sergei Medvedev, and consisted of "not creating new demarcation lines in Europe, not returning to our obsolete politics of blocs, but rather creating an all-embracing system of European security," Itar-Tass reported.

Primakov and Solana had met earlier Thursday, and while the foreign minister made no statement, his spokesman Grigory Karasin said the Russian position on NATO expansion as stated repeatedly by both Yeltsin and Primakov had not changed. "We are against NATO's expansion to the east," he told reporters.

Solana's hard line on expansion will undoubtedly be reinforced by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who arrived in Moscow on Thursday in advance of a meeting of the Contact Group on Bosnia, scheduled for Saturday.

Christopher, who is scheduled to meet Yeltsin on Friday, told a meeting in Prague of foreign ministers from 12 central and East European countries that aspire to NATO membership Wednesday that the alliance "had made a commitment to take in new members and it must not, and will not, keep new democracies in the waiting room forever."

NATO leaders also denounced various plans for a rival military alliance based on the Commonwealth of Independent States, and possibly including the Balkans, which have been mentioned repeatedly by Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and other top officials.

Speaking in Sofia on Thursday, German President Roman Herzog said that "the German government, NATO and its member states are against the creation of a new wall, a new Iron Curtain, or new enemies in Eastern Europe. This would be a political mistake," Reuters reported.

Nevertheless, both Christopher and Solana, who met briefly in Moscow on Thursday, expressed their hope that Russia could be incorporated into an overall scheme for European security. "It is also critical that Russia take its rightful place in the new Europe," Christopher said.

Solana stressed the positive results of his two-day trip, which included talks with Grachev, the speakers of both houses of parliament, and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The most important achievement, Solana said, was that NATO had been able to establish "good working relations with the Russian authorities that I'm sure will be able to continue in the future." The atmosphere of his meetings with Russian leaders Solana described as "very warm, very cordial."

That mood could take a change for the worse next month when Solana visits the three Baltic states, which have joined the Partnership for Peace program as a preliminary step toward NATO membership. Russia has consistently blasted the Baltics' bid to join NATO as an open provocation.

While acknowledging that the Russian side had not budged on the central issue of expansion, Solana said he believed that by maintaining the NATO-Russian dialogue "on a permanent basis," the positions of the two sides might come closer to compromise.

"We hope that the Russian authorities have understood better the reason why NATO decided in 1994 to open up a process of admitting, if possible, new members. But it is probably a little bit too early to say that the position has changed on the part of the Russian authorities," Solana said.

Russia will sign a program of cooperation with NATO for 1996, Solana announced, and Grachev accepted his invitation to create a permanent liaison office at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Solana also signed a memorandum of understanding with Shoigu on cooperation in planning for coping with emergency situations in Russia. The signing crowned Shoigu's efforts during meetings in Brussels earlier this month.