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Russia: Foreign Minister Rules Out Membership In NATO And EU

Prague, 29 October 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has ruled out any prospects that his country will be joining NATO or the European Union.

Interviewed by the Moscow daily Izvestiya (Oct. 28), Ivanov said that if Russia were to join, those two Western organizations "would cease to be what they are." Russia is "too big," Ivanov said, adding that "the Russian scale of things is too expansive."

Russia's relations with NATO are conducted on the basis of the so-called Founding Act, signed last year (May, 1997) in Paris, that created the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. The council meets periodically to discuss current issues, such as Kosovo, proliferation of weapons, and terrorism.

Ivanov appeared reluctant to assess the importance of the Founding Act. "The process of giving it practical content is going only slowly," he said. But he also admitted that Russia's "limited financial potential" may be a factor in determining the scope of the relationship. Russia simply cannot afford to participate fully in various aspects of the Alliance's activities.

Ivanov was quick to assert, however, that Russia continues to regard the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) rather than NATO as providing the focus for its security policies. "NATO provides collective security for only a group of states -- 16 today, 19 tomorrow," he said, referring to the upcoming inclusion of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

He then went on to reiterate the long-standing Russian theme, initially formulated in the Soviet era, that "NATO is still a military machine aimed in a very specific direction." He did not name that direction, but seemed to be suggesting it was against Russia. Ivanov admitted that NATO's attitude toward Moscow might have changed "in spirit" during recent years, but he also insisted that "the spirit is one thing and documents are another."

The NATO charter defined the Alliance as a basically defensive voluntary organization of democratic states. There is no mention of Russia or any other states in the charter.

Would Russia continue to oppose further eastward expansion of NATO, particularly its admitting the Baltic states?

Ivanov was cautious, saying, "When Russia says that there is some kind of red line, it should not be thought that tomorrow it will be putting an ultimatum to somebody." But he also said that if "a threat to national security" emerges, the new situation would have to be assessed "through a different prism."

In general, Ivanov insisted on continuity in Russia's foreign policy. "I don't think any radical changes are foreseen," he said, adding that "the strategic goals that Russia is pursuing on the eve of the 21st century are not short-term but long-term."

Ivanov described Russia's main task as that of playing an active role "in the creation of a democratic multipolar world order." This, he emphasized, "required that there be no dictate by any one state or group of states" and that "mechanisms be developed for collaboration and a collective response" to international events.

The very concept of multipolarity, which has commonly been taken as a thinly disguised criticism of the United States' global influence, was put at the heart of Moscow's strategy in international activities with the arrival of Yevgeny Primakov in Russia's Foreign Ministry in late 1995. Primakov's strategy is certain to be continued by Igor Ivanov.