Prague, MARCH 20 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Secretary of State Warren
Christopher today promised former Warsaw Pact countries of
Central and Eastern Europe that NATO does plan to expand to accept
some of them -- as full members.
He was speaking in Prague to foreign ministers from 12 Central
European countries that are interested in joining the North Atlantic
Christopher said that any country that now cooperates with NATO in
its Partnership for Peace program will be considered for full
membership. However, he did n-o-t give a timetable and said NATO will
take its next steps in December to decide what interested partners
must do to join.
But he did promise that "NATO has made a commitment to take in new
members and it must n-o-t and will n-o-t keep new democracies in the
waiting room forever." In Christopher's words, "NATO enlargement is
on track and it will happen."
And he also confirmed that new allies will be full members of NATO.
He said they will receive all the benefits of NATO membership. But, in
his words, "they must be ready to assume the full risks, costs and
responsibilities as well."
He also called for an expansion of the European Union (EU) to help
economic development in former Soviet Bloc countries. He gave
assurances that the process of European integration through NATO and
the EU "will not build new walls across this continent."
Christopher, who plans to meet Russian President Boris Yeltsin and
Foreign Minister Yevgeni Primakov in Moscow on Friday, said he will
try to convince them that Russia should build a cooperative
relationship with NATO. In Christopher's words, "we have an . . .
interest in integrating, not isolating, Russia."
Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec, who made a short speech
before Christopher spoke, said that Russia was "beginning to look for
ways in which it could take a more open attitude towards NATO