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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chubais Warns West on NATO

President Boris Yeltsin's powerful chief of staff, Anatoly Chubais, added his voice Monday to Moscow's rising diplomatic chorus against NATO's eastward expansion.


Chubais told a news conference at the World Economic Forum, a high-powered gathering of world leaders in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos, that the alliance's expansion would give new ammunition to anti-Western communists and nationalists vying for influence in Russia.


He warned that if NATO, without a prior agreement with Russia, pushed ahead with plans to accept new members from the former Warsaw Pact then Moscow would have to reassess its relations with the West.


Chubais' warning followed an earlier statement Monday by State Duma First Deputy Speaker Alexander Shokhin, speaking to journalists on his return from Davos, that NATO expansion risked slowing Russia's economic recovery because budgetary funds would have to be diverted into further military investment necessary to ensure Russia's security.


Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Avdeyev also made statements similar to Chubais' at Davos over the weekend.


The one dissenting voice from Moscow in a chorus of anti-NATO rhetoric has been that of former foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev, who said in an article in the U.S. magazine Newsweek that Moscow's vociferous protests against NATO expansion should not be taken seriously.


The Davos statements follow talks on NATO in Moscow on Sunday between French President Jacques Chirac and Yeltsin, still recovering from a bout of double pneumonia.


Yeltsin has been pressing his case against NATO enlargement in a succession of meetings with NATO leaders. Germany's Chancellor Helmut Kohl was the first to visit the ailing president in January. After Chirac, Yeltsin is to meet British Prime Minister John Major and U.S. President Bill Clinton.


After their talks, Chirac said NATO and Russia might reach an agreement before a key NATO summit in Madrid in July, when the first new alliance members will be invited to join.


NATO is hoping to agree with Russia on the terms of a charter that will allay Moscow's apprehensions about NATO enlargement and allow the development of a cooperative relationship.


An unnamed "top Kremlin source" said Moscow hoped to make use of French differences with the United States and Great Britain over reform of NATO, Interfax reported Saturday. Paris supports a stronger European voice in NATO, with a corresponding reduction of the dominant U.S. influence.


France's gentler approach to relations with Russia should not be exaggerated however, say diplomatic sources, noting that Paris does not contradict NATO policy.


Also on Monday the president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Arkady Volsky, told Interfax that Russia would have to retarget its missiles at possible new NATO bases in eastern and central Europe if NATO persisted in plans to expand.


Meanwhile, Hungary's Foreign Minister, Laszlo Kovacs said Monday that the Russian view that NATO enlargement posed a threat to Russia, was "nonsense." Hungary is one of three former Moscow allies -- along with Poland and the Czech Republic -- considered certain to be invited to join the alliance at the NATO summit in July. Kovacs said Russian opposition was based on an obsolete view of NATO as a purely military alliance.


In a move unlikely to cheer the Russians, the British Defense Minister Michael Portillo, on a two-day visit to Kiev, urged Ukraine on Monday to sign a special partnership agreement with NATO. Speaking at the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, Portillo said Ukraine and NATO should sign the agreement, which would entail cooperation but would not amount to Ukrainian membership of the alliance.