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Lithuania: President Positive About NATO's Expansion

By Kestutis Girnius

Madrid, 9 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Lithuania's President Algirdas Brazauskas says his evaluation of NATO's declaration on Euro-Atlantic security and cooperation is very positive.

Brazauskas said he is particularly pleased that yesterday's NATO declaration at the Madrid summit mentioned states in the Baltic region -- who are also aspiring members -- and that NATO is committed to an open-door policy and admission of new members in the future.

At a Madrid news conference today, Brazaukas stated his belief that Lithuania will be asked to join NATO when the second wave commences. Brazauskas noted that a review of NATO expansion is planned for 1999.

In respose to a question on Russia's stated objections to Baltic membership in NATO, Brazauskas said that two years is a long time, and that, during this period, much can change in the relatonship between NATO and Russia. Just a few years ago, Brazauskas said, Moscow was objecting to NATO membership for any former Warsaw Pact state, but has now relented. Brazauskas said similar changes of attitude in the next two years cannot be ruled out.

The presidents of the Baltic states and Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic met briefly today. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were invited to join NATO yesterday. They reasserted their commitment to support the aspirations of the Baltic states to join NATO.