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Russia: NATO Proposes Reductions As Albright Begins Moscow Talks

Moscow, 20 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - As U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visits Moscow to soothe Russian concerns over NATO's expansion, NATO today formally proposed fresh cuts in the overall level of its conventional forces in Europe. In a statement issued in Vienna today, the alliance said it is "prepared to take significant steps" to cut back conventional forces.

The statement says all signatories of the treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe should work to reduce forces from the Atlantic to the Urals. NATO proposed that armament ceilings for Eastern European countries should be fixed at current levels.

The statement comes as Albright is in Moscow for talks meant to soothe Russian concerns over NATO's planned expansion. A high-ranking U.S. official said Russia is concerned that there will be an enormous NATO war machine on its border.

Those sentiments were echoed by high-ranking Russian officials. Presidential press secretary Sergei Yastrzhembsky said Russia regards the expansion of NATO as a threat to its own security.

Duma speaker, Gennady Seleznyov, was quoted by Interfax as telling Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini that NATO is a remnant of the Cold War. And former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev wrote in the Italian newspaper, "La Stampa," that NATO expansion would endanger the security of all of Europe because it would set Russia against the West once again.

Albright will deal with those concerns as she meets with top Russian officials over the next two days. Those meetings will culminate tomorrow when she holds talks with Russian President Boris Yeltsin.