Washington, 31 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- An influential U.S. Senator says the United States and NATO should find a role for Russia in European security even while NATO moves ahead with plans to add new members from among the former communist countries of central and eastern Europe.
Senator Richard Lugar, (R-Indiana) a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, suggested to reporters today that resolving Russia's role in European security might prevent the NATO enlargement issue from damaging cooperation on important arms control issues.
Senior Russian officials have criticized NATO's plans to expand into central and eastern Europe. The 16-member military alliance may invite new members early next year. The list will most likely be made up of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Lugar said he supports alliance expansion and he says it should have started three years ago.
The senator's views on international affairs, especially arms control issues, are widely respected. He visited Russia two weeks ago with U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry on a mission to convince Russian parliamentarians to ratify the nuclear arms reduction treaty with the U.S. that is known by its english acronym START Two.
The Russian parliament wants a five-year delay on ratification. Lugar says this would be a costly mistake and he says the U.S. should do everything possible to convince the parliament to ratify the treaty.