Leading Russian foreign policy analysts visiting Washington have blasted U.S. policy-makers for driving Russia into confrontation by pushing ahead with NATO expansion without Moscow's approval.
"The main instrument of U.S. policy in Europe remains a military bloc [NATO] whose only possible enemy is Russia," said Andranik Migranian, a member of Russia's Presidential Council and a senior adviser to President Boris Yeltsin.
He was speaking at a conference Thursday on U.S.-Russian relations organized by the American University in Moscow (AUM) and the Cato Institute.
"Russia now fulfills the role of bugaboo in U.S. national security circles," Mr. Migranian, a self-described disciple of Reagan administration Cabinet member Jeane Kirkpatrick, told the conference.
"The United States is seeking to secure for itself the fruits of victory in the Cold War by swallowing up the former Soviet sphere in Central Europe," he said.
Other Russian experts warned that, if both the Clinton administration and Republican leaders continue to support the expansion of NATO into Central Europe to include former Soviet allies in the Warsaw Pact such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, an isolated Russia would retaliate by turning to the east and south and forging strategic ties to Iran and China.
They also warned that, while the best future for both Russia and the United States lies in peaceful cooperation, the risks are growing that, over the next year, they could drift apart into a dangerous new cycle of misunderstanding, confrontation and conflict.
"An isolated Russia by definition cannot be a democratic country," said Sergei Rogov, director of Moscow's highly influential Institute of the USA and Canada. "This is a linkage between democratic and foreign policies."
"In domestic terms, NATO expansion would have a tremendous impact on the situation in Russia," Mr. Rogov said. Democratic leaders such as former Deputy Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar "are going to be totally marginalized" by such a development and anti-Western hardliners will gain, he said.
Also Thursday, Gregory Yavlinsky, the most successful free-market and pro-democracy candidate in Russia's presidential election this year, agreed that NATO expansion would strengthen the already powerful anti-democratic forces in Russia.
"Expansion of NATO is very bad for us [the Russian people]," Mr. Yavlinsky said at a Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe conference on the future of Russia.
It is bad "because we have a military-industrial complex, because we still have the Communists, because they have 200 members in the Duma [the lower house of the Russian parliament] and because it would give all of these people the opportunity to speculate" about actions to strengthen their power at the expense of democratic forces, he said.
"These are developments we do not want to see as a democratic opposition in Russia," he said.
With NATO expansion looming, repeated declarations of strategic partnership with Russia by both the Bush and Clinton administrations are just empty rhetoric devoid of meaning, Mr. Rogov told the Cato-AUM conference.
The two countries are not cooperating on significant common interests, they have not developed any joint mechanism for making major foreign policy decisions, and they have not created any machinery to implement such decisions, he said.
"So it [the talk of cooperation] is all going to be blah-blah-blah," Mr. Rogov said.
Instead, Russian decision-makers "see NATO becoming the [single] security structure for Europe, and Russia being excluded," he said.
"That is a situation which will exclude Russia from European politics [even though] for 300 years, Russia was a player [in the affairs of Europe] since the days of Peter the Great," Mr. Rogov said.
The Clinton administration has repeatedly stated it wants to create a strong dialogue between NATO and Russia. …