Washington, 29 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The State Department says the United States does not want to see NATO expansion lead to a "downturn in the West's relations with Russia."
Spokesman Nicholas Burns made the comment when he was asked about a recent editorial in "The New York Times" which maintained that now is the wrong time to expand the NATO alliance.
Burns said that all of the members in NATO believe the best way to achieve a united, stable and peaceful Europe is to "modernize, renovate and renew NATO."
Burns said that the United States and NATO believe "very strongly" that there is a need to create a new relationship with Russia.
"It can be a treaty, a charter, a set of political understanding whereby the Russian's have a way to work with NATO militarily," he said.
He added that the Russians and NATO already have an important relationship dedicated to reducing the risk of nuclear war and lowering the level of nuclear armaments.
When asked to comment on the Baltic states' concern that the first set of countries admitted to NATO would be the last, Burns said that it wouldn't happen.
"We would expect this to happen in stages. And by no means are we saying that those countries admitted in the first wave will be the only countries admitted," he said.