Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Opposition To NATO: Same Song, New Verse

A senior Russian diplomat has said Moscow's new stance on NATO expansion represented an adjustment to a new situation rather than a softening of its opposition.

His remarks follow a statement in Berlin on Tuesday by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who said Moscow had no objections to NATO's political expansion but was only concerned about the deployment of troops or weapons on the territory of new member-countries.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin said Wednesday that Primakov's words did not so much represent a softening of Russia's position as reflect its recognition of a change in attitude on the part of NATO, which was showing itself to be aware of "the new realities in Europe."

"While in the past the alliance saw its role as preserving security in Europe without taking Russia's views into account, now it recognizes that this cannot happen," he said, adding, however, that Russia would not accept NATO expansion in its present form as a military-political alliance.

But analysts in Moscow said Primakov's Berlin statement was a clear indication that Moscow now accepted that it could not impose a veto on NATO membership and was now looking to the alliance to provide it with certain security guarantees before allowing former members of the Warsaw Treaty to join.

Irina Kobrinskaya, defense analyst at the Moscow center of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, said Russia was now prepared to accept the notion of new members' being admitted "under the Norwegian model," according to which no foreign troops or nuclear weapons would be deployed in those countries in peacetime.

This scheme would require the approval of those countries themselves -- either through parliamentary ratification or, as in Norway's case, by referendum. While in some countries this would not be a problem -- Lithuania's constitution already forbids foreign troops or weapons on its soil -- others might be less willing to accept any such limitation.

Commentator Konstantin Eggert, writing in Thursday's edition of Izvestia, said the apparent change in Moscow's attitude could well stem from President Boris Yeltsin's realization, as the June 16 presidential election approaches, that foreign policy issues played virtually no role in the election campaign. At the same time, however, he castigated the Kremlin for allowing itself to get into a position where any agreement would be seen as capitulation on Moscow's part.

"For two years, the stubborn propaganda campaign against the expansion of the bloc, unsupported by any real ability to stop the process, has only served to speed up the addition of central Europe to the alliance, while at the same time slowing down constructive dialogue with the West," Eggert wrote. He said Russia's only chance of taking part in working out a new concept for European security lay in unfreezing political and military negotiations with the West. "In that case, in a few years our country could think once again about applying to join the alliance -- something that Yeltsin was talking about as long ago as 1991."

U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry predicted Wednesday that Russia would eventually drop its objections to NATO expansion in eastern Europe, but called for the alliance not to ignore Moscow's concerns over its own security.