Warsaw, June 19 (RFE/RL) - Leaders from 34 countries are gathering in Warsaw today to open a four-day NATO-sponsored workshop on political-military decision-making.
The meeting is hosted by Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. Among those expected to attend are NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, Czech President Vaclav Havel, and Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev. Top generals from NATO headquarters, and the Defense Ministers of of Germany and Britain, are also expected to attend.
High-ranking Russian officials reportedly turned down an invitation to the conference. But Polish officials said the reason for the rejection was more because the Russians wanted to stay home to watch their country's elections than because they did not want to participate in an event bringing together NATO and Eastern European nations. Russian officials have previously spoken against NATO extending full membership to former Warsaw Pact nations.
Many of NATO's former Warsaw Pact foes, including Russia, have joined the western alliance's Partnership For Peace program, which is seen as a step toward possible NATO membership.