Vilnius, 19 May 2000 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush says he supports the continued expansion of NATO. In a letter to Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, Bush said that Russia should not be allowed to stop NATO's enlargement plans. But Russian First Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aleksandr Avdeyev told Russian legislators today that NATO expansion within the borders of the former Soviet Union would prompt Moscow to revise its relations with NATO.
Also today, nine former Soviet-bloc countries seeking NATO membership signed a statement in Vilnius, Lithuania, urging the alliance to admit them in 2002.
NATO Secretary-General George Robertson told those gathering in Vilnius that NATO expansion should continue. "We need to continue the process of bringing new members into NATO. And this means keeping our political commitment to the new democracies of Europe, so that they, too, can be a full part of a safe and prosperous Euro-Atlantic community. And it means helping those nations that aspire to NATO membership to prepare to take on the responsibilities that entails."
Robertson also said NATO and Russia should resume cooperation in full as soon as possible, which he said is essential for European security.