Washington, 17 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - A senior White House official has reaffirmed the U.S. position that membership in the NATO military alliance will remain open to all of Europe's emerging democracies.
In a commentary published in today's "Washington Post" newspaper, White House national security adviser Samuel Berger repeated assurances that the first group of new members accepted into the alliance will not be the last. He also said NATO will not bargain away concessions in exchange for Russia's agreement to NATO expansion.
The alliance is expected to invite the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to apply for membership this summer. Many other former communist nations, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, also want to join. Russia is opposed to NATO's eastward expansion. U.S. President Bill Clinton will try to make progress on this issue when he meets Russian President Boris Yeltsin later this week.
Berger also wrote that NATO enlargement is not aimed at Russia, and that expansion will benefit Russia by increasing stability and security in the region.