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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Albright Arrives to Pitch NATO Plan

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright flew into Moscow on Thursday for a busy 24-hour stay during which she will try to convince Kremlin leaders that NATO's planned eastward expansion is no threat to Russia.

She arrived armed with a package of measures designed to help allay Russian anxiety and to convince Moscow of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's desire to include Russia in future European security arrangements.

Despite a heavy political agenda, her first stop after arriving at Vnukovo Airport from London was the Danilovsky Monastery, where she had a brief visit with Patriarch Alexy II of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Albright's visit to the Russian Patriarch was unusual for a political trip, but diplomats noted that the Orthodox Church is an influential social force in Russia today.

Albright then went on to talks with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov. She is due to meet with President Boris Yeltsin on Friday before starting the Asia leg of her 11-day, nine-nation maiden tour as secretary of state.

On Thursday evening she was scheduled to answer questions from American students on an Internet link-up with hundreds of schools across the United States.

During her visit, she will also discuss arrangements for a summit meeting between Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton in Helsinki on March 20 and 21.

The latest in a parade of NATO leaders to come knocking at the Kremlin gates, Albright brings the most significant array of conciliatory measures so far, though there are few indications they will do much to ease Moscow's stern opposition to the alliance's expansion.

The West is anxious to ease Moscow's concerns before a July NATO summit in Madrid, during which Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are expected to be invited to join the alliance in 1999.

There were no immediate details on Albright's talks Thursday with Chernomyrdin and Primakov. She was expected to outline a NATO proposal for a unilateral reduction in permitted conventional forces in NATO's European member states. Included would be an assurance that alliance membership for former Soviet bloc countries would not mean more NATO forces in that part of Europe.

Albright is also expected to discuss a NATO proposal to establish a joint NATO-Russia military brigade which, building on the experience of the international force deployed in Bosnia, which included both NATO and Russian forces, could be used for peacekeeping.

Emerging as a key part of the debate over NATO's plans is Russia's desire to renegotiate the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe treaty that imposes limits on deployment of non-nuclear forces.

Russia is unhappy with the treaty, saying it was rendered obsolete by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.

NATO put forward a proposal Tuesday at the conventional arms reduction talks in Vienna in an attempt to ease some of Moscow's concerns, The Associated Press reported.

Officials said negotiations beginning in earnest next Tuesday in the Austrian capital will complement the discussion on NATO enlargement.

The key element of NATO's proposals to adapt the conventional forces treaty is a shift away from groups, or zones, within which troops and conventional weapons are limited. Instead, it proposes a new system specifying limits by country to reflect the demise of the Warsaw Pact.

The NATO proposal contains no specific numbers, but it reportedly commits the alliance to significant reductions in its present holdings.

"The alliance is prepared to take significant steps in this regard," the proposal states.

Despite such concessions, Albright faces tough going in her Moscow talks. Though she will repeat the alliance's desire to give Russia a strong consultative role in NATO security issues, she will not be able to offer the veto power that Russia has demanded.

In remarks reported Thursday by Interfax, Yeltsin's spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, said Russia's opposition to NATO expansion would remain unchanged "irrespective of the outcome of the talks between Russia and NATO, if the alliance does move eastward."

Visits to Moscow by NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, French President Jacques Chirac and German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, among others, have so far done little to soften Kremlin opposition to NATO expansion.

During her Moscow visit, Albright is staying at the Radisson Slavjanskaya hotel, which has been clouded in controversy since the contract-style killing last year of American businessman Paul Tatum, who was locked in a struggle with Russian joint-venture partners over management rights of the hotel's business center and other facilities.

President Bill Clinton also has used the Radisson during his visits to Moscow.