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Baltic States: Russia's NATO Warnings Dismissed

Prague, 24 March 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Estonia's defense minister today dismissed Moscow's warning that NATO-Russian ties will collapse if the Baltic states join the alliance.

Andrus Oeoevel said in Stockholm after talks with his Swedish counterpart Bjoern von Sydow that the Russian warning "cannot be taken seriously."

Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, speaking on Saturday after the two-day U.S.-Russian summit in Helsinki, warned that if Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the Atlantic alliance, Russia's ties with NATO would "shatter."

Latvian Prime Minister Andris Skele said today in Frankfurt that leaving the Baltic states out of NATO and the European Union could lead to conflict between Russia and the West.

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski got NATO assurances today from NATO secretary general Javier Solana that there will be "no second class citizens" in the alliance when it expands eastward.

The chairman of NATO's Military Committee, General Klaus Naumann, met today in Moscow with Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin and Defense Minister Igor Rodionov. Rodionov said that last week's U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki had "undoubtedly" given a "new impulse" to Russian-NATO relations. He said it is now necessary to think about how to build ties under changed conditions.