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Baltic States: Military Not Yet Ready For NATO

Washington, 4 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - The United States says the Baltic countries need more time to develop compatible military forces before they can join NATO.

White House spokesman Michael McCurry said yesterday that the three Baltic states have made considerable economic and political advances but need to make more progress in what he called the interoperability of their militaries with the militaries of the West. McCurry said that takes time to unfold.

He indicated that another reason why Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are not viable candidates for the first round of NATO expansion is their location close to Russia. He said the reality of the security posture on that continent has to be considered.

McCurry said the the U.S. has made a great effort to create a special relationship between NATO and Russia because Russia's views count in the debate about Europe's future.

The Russian government has expressed objections to NATO expansion eastward and said it will oppose any attempt to include territory that was once part of the Soviet Union.