Prague, 18 November 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Zbigniew Brzezinski, a widely respected American expert on international relations, yesterday described as "most improbable" the simultaneous admission of all three Baltic states into NATO during a second-wave enlargement.
Speaking in Vilnius to a session of the Lithuanian parliament, Brzezinski said, "There is a tension between a very spontaneous and widespread sympathy for the Baltic states and at the same time a pragmatic concern for what happens in Russia."
This tension, Brzezinski said, severely endangers the early admission of all three Baltic states. It is further augmented by Russia's consistent and vocal opposition to any NATO expansion into countries which once were part of the Soviet Union.
Brzezinski served as National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.
Last year, NATO leaders decided at a summit in Madrid to invite the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to open membership negotiations and said the enlargement process would continue further.
The three countries are to be granted full membership in 1999, either before or at the time of the Alliance's summit in Washington marking NATO's 50th anniversary. It has been expected that the Washington summit might also consider the scope and timing of the second wave of the Alliance expansion.
Brzezinski said in Vilnius that there is little likelihood that the summit will make commitments on new candidates for enlargement, although the gathering is almost certain to reaffirm the NATO policy of an "open door" to prospective members.
Alternatively, Brzezinski said, the summit may decide to invite a single Baltic state, one that best fulfills the criteria of membership and "at the same time is less provocative to the Russians, because it is not engaged in deep ethnic problems of internal nature and also because it is geographically a little more removed." Brzezinski added that "this is clearly the case of Lithuania."
Brzezinski has already argued, in the latest issue of the U.S. quarterly "The National Interest," that NATO should consider Lithuania and Slovenia as prime candidates for membership. He has said that this choice would "enhance the Alliance's geographical cohesion" and make it clear that no "democratic state of Europe can be arbitrarily blackballed by a non-member from participating in the Alliance."
Brzezinski said in Vilnius that the summit may direct NATO officials to determine the eligibility of potential candidates so as to "launch" preparation of a second wave of expansion at a later time.
Brzezinski added that the Baltic states could strengthen their case by expanding ties with the Alliance. He said, "It might be useful in the meantime to seek to obtain a NATO-Baltic Charter paralleling the U.S.-Baltic Charter." The U.S.-Baltic Charter is a document expressing friendship and willingness to cooperate between the different sides but provides no security guarantees. It was signed earlier this year.