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Pragmatism Will Bring Russian Acceptance of a Larger NATO, Says Kozyrev

Munich, July 26 (RFE/RL) -- Moscow will eventually accept the inclusion of Central European states in NATO for pragmatic reasons, Andrei Kozyrev, Russia's former foreign minister, told participants in a political seminar this week.

Russia's economy desperately needs huge investment, which can come only from nations in the G-7 group of major industrial states--the United States, Canada, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Japan. Since six of these seven are members of NATO, it made sense for Russia to accept the alliance as a partner, and not as an opponent, said Kozyrev.

Many of President Boris Yeltsin's advisors already look at the question of NATO enlargement from this pragmatic viewpoint, said Kozyrev. Yeltsin would also accept it, he said.

In Kozyrev's view, the new security advisor, Aleksandr Lebed, should be listed among the pragmatists on this and other issues. Lebed told Britain's "Financial Times" this week that he did not oppose NATO expansion. But he said he thinks some Central European countries would find membership too costly.

Kozyrev said Yeltsin would probably try to reach an agreement, which would allow Moscow to exert influence on some important NATO decisions. Moscow would also continue to insist that no nuclear weapons be stationed in the new member states, he said.

In Kozyrev's view, the Russian public has little interest in the question of NATO enlargement. He believes it was an issue only for the political class. Therefore, there was no ideological pressure blocking a change of policy.

Kozyrev's comments are similar to those he made to European economic and political leaders at a seminar in Switzerland last month. He said then that Russia should drop its enemy image of NATO, and develop forms of co-operation with it.

His efforts to move in this direction were one reason he was dismissed as foreign minister at the beginning of the year, he said. Kozyrev is now a member of the Russian parliament.

NATO has said that the next steps towards enlarging the alliance will be taken after a meeting of NATO government leaders in December.

This week the U.S. House of Representatives gave its support to the inclusion of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic in NATO and voted for $60 million in aid to help them achieve the standards necessary for membership.