Bonn, 17 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - NATO Secretary General Javier Solana says it would be in Russia's best interests to drop its opposition to the Western alliance's expansion plans, which he predicts will begin in 1999.
Speaking at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Bonn today, Solana said a privileged relationship with NATO serves Russia better than what he called "a grudging retreat into self-isolation."
Solana said he expected Moscow to opt for a "durable" and "institutionalized" Russian-NATO relationship before the July NATO summit in Madrid. At the summit, NATO leaders are expected to announce the first wave of potential new members. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland are viewed as frontrunners.
Solana said he had "no doubt" there would be an enlarged NATO by 1999.
Solana, who is scheduled to open a two-day visit to Moscow on Sunday, also met today with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel.
Kinkel said in a statement that he and Solana had discussed reform of NATO structures, relations with Russia, expansion of the alliance and strengthening relations with those countries not admitted in the first phase of expansion.