Washington, 18 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - The United States has criticized Russian threats of economic retaliation against the Czech Republic.
U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said yesterday that there is no place in the new Europe for those kinds of public threats of retaliation.
He said the Czech Republic belongs to NATO's Partnership for Peace program and has a right to say it wants to join NATO without being threatened by another country.
Burns said no one in the partnership is excluded from becoming a member of NATO, including the Baltic states and countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.
Russia's ambassador to the Czech Republic said Sunday that if the Czech Republic joins NATO, key bilateral agreements with Russia could be jeopardized.
The statement drew a sharp denunciation by Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec. Burns said a stiff response was entirely appropriate for such a threat.