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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, NATO Converge In Paris

PARIS -- NATO and Russia hailed a new security accord Monday as a major step toward a peaceful and united Europe, saying it would increase trust between old foes and help heal the wounds of the Cold War.

"It's a big step for Russia, for NATO, for Europe and for the whole world," President Boris Yeltsin told reporters as he arrived in Paris for the official signing ceremony Tuesday of the NATO-Russia pact.

"It's good for Russia, America, France, England, Germany. They all won, all Europe won. And security won -- that's the main thing," he said.

The pact mapping out a new relationship between the Cold War enemies is intended to bring Russia into an emerging European security order for the 21st century and ease the Western military alliance's expansion into former communist countries of Eastern Europe.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the accord, which sets up a NATO-Russia council to give Moscow a permanent voice within the alliance, was "truly historic."

"We will all be able to participate in putting a divided Europe back together," she told reporters after meeting French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette.

She said the accord, titled The Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Russian Federation, would define "what Europe will be in the 21st century, the relation Madrid in July, and found a "considerable amount of agreement on some but not all names."

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are the favorites and are expected to receive the necessary backing of all current 16 members of NATO to join by 1999. Romania and Slovenia also hope to be in the first wave.

Romania is strongly supported by Paris and some other southern European states. Northern members are less sure, pointing to the weakness of the country's economy, but they argue tiny Slovenia's inclusion could help stabilize the Balkans.

Before leaving Moscow, Yeltsin -- who has had to concede that he is powerless to stop at least a limited enlargement of NATO to include former Warsaw Pact states -- talked tough, defending the accord as protecting Russia's interests.

He told Itar-Tass in an interview that Moscow would not accept attempts to follow up membership for former Warsaw Pact countries by bringing in former Soviet republics, a clear reference to the three Baltic states.

"The negative consequences of expansion will be reduced to a minimum. This way we will not slip toward confrontation, which would inevitably involve big expenses for arms, a new militarization of political thinking," he said.

Yeltsin has won assurances the allies have no plans to place nuclear weapons or foreign troops on the soil of the new members and has been granted a special consultative role, but he failed to gain any decisive say in future NATO decisions.

Based at NATO's headquarters in Brussels, the Russia-NATO council will have a permanent secretariat and Russia will be represented by a permanent ambassador. Twice a year, the council will meet at both foreign-minister and defense-minister levels.

U.S. President Bill Clinton, who was expected to arrive in Paris on Tuesday, sees alliance expansion as a way of righting the wrongs of the Yalta conference of 1945 -- when most of Eastern Europe was left to come under the "zone of influence" of Josef Stalin's Soviet Union.

Moscow is most concerned by the desire of some former Soviet republics, primarily the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, to join the alliance and is angered by NATO's refusal to rule out future membership for them.

The presidents of the three Baltic states appealed to alliance leaders Monday for a commitment that other new members be accepted later, and they issued a joint declaration reaffirming their desire to join.