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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Defense Chief Urges Softer Tone on NATO

New Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov criticized NATO's eastward expansion plans in an interview published Wednesday, but said Moscow should tone down its rhetoric to help build trust.

Rodionov, appointed by President Boris Yeltsin on July 17, said Moscow would take unspecified but "adequate" measures to strengthen its defenses if NATO expanded to incorporate countries of Eastern and Central Europe.

But taking a more conciliatory tone than his hawkish predecessor Pavel Grachev over NATO's plans to bring former Soviet bloc countries under its wing, Rodionov suggested Russia's own statements on the world stage should be more realistic.

"Russia must also retreat from the mania of greatness and stop demagogically declaring that no problems in the world can be solved without its participation," he told the weekly newspaper Moscow News.

"There must be e considered approach in everything, based on the art of the possible."

Rebuffing excessive nationalism, Rodionov said he was an opponent of "hurrah-patriotic emotions."

"We must reject the policy of opposition and arrogance in relations with one another," he said.

"I am a supporter of contacts aimed at the multilateral development of partnership with NATO. We are obliged to cooperate, reduce tension and increase international security,"

Moscow News did not say when its defense specialist Alexander Zhilin had carried out the interview.

U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said after talks Tuesday with alliance Secretary General Javier Solana that NATO and Moscow should speed up talks on developing their relationship now that Russia's presidential election was over.

Moscow and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have long been at odds over the alliance's expansion plans. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are at the top of the list to join.

Moscow says such plans threaten its security and has rejected them. It has also demanded a special voice in NATO.

It was not clear if Rodionov, an army colonel-general, meant to play down Moscow's demands for a special status.

But any signs of a more moderate approach by Moscow will be welcomed by alliance leaders hoping Yeltsin's election victory will help matters. Some statements by Russian officials since the July 3 election have sent encouraging signals to NATO.

Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov told the French newspaper Le Figaro this month that Moscow was against NATO's planned eastward expansion unless it got guarantees that no new military structures would appear along its borders.

Security tsar Alexander Lebed told the London-based Financial Times in July that NATO enlargement would be expensive and unnecessary, but posed no security threat to Russia.

Even so, Itar-Tass said defense ministers of the 12 former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States were expected to voice concern at NATO's enlargement plans at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday.