Prague persuades Russia not to fear NATO

Last week, Czech Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister Jan Kavan visited Moscow. The main goal his visit was to persuade Russia’s leadership not to hamper NATO eastern expansion. The entry of ex-members of the Warsaw Pact into NATO has been testy not only for the countries striving to join NATO, but also for the alliance itself. Finally, Moscow reluctantly agreed with the acceptance of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary into NATO. However, the number of countries aiming to join NATO is ever increasing. Almost all East-European nations, including some ex-republics of the Soviet Union, have already stated their intention to enter NATO. The most likely countries to be soon accepted into NATO are Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, the countries that share common borders with Russia. This situation causes Russia to feel rather apprehensive. The Yugoslavian events of 1999 demonstrated the effectiveness of "cooperation" between Russia and the alliance.

The situation in Europe has considerably improved. Prospects of closer cooperation between Russia and NATO are now being discussed. East-European countries, Poland for example, want Russia to be a NATO partner equal in rights. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski discussed the problem with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his recent visit to Warsaw.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan also touched upon the problem during his visit to Russia last week. Mr.Kavan hopes that the relations between new NATO members and Russia will improve. It should be noted that Warsaw and Prague have decided to improve cooperation with Russia only when a closer partnership between Russia and NATO members Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy outlined. Until then, they did not wish to initiate improvement of relations between Russia and NATO.

Jan Kavan invited Vladimir Putin to visit Prague on an official visit. The Czech foreign minister insists that the visit is to be scheduled for November, when a NATO summit is to be held in Prague. NATO plans to accept new members during the summit. Vladimir Putin has not yet confirmed his intention to travel to Prague during the summit. However, he will surely take part in the Russia – NATO summit in May. Before the May summit, Russia and NATO members have enough time for the development of an agreement to guarantee security to both sides. The necessity for such an agreement is pressing, because it is to become the key factor for the creation of an effective European security system.

Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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