When President Bill Clinton comes to Prague, Czech Republic, on
Jan. 11-12 to meet with leaders of four Central European countries,
he will be told his "Partnership for Peace" proposal does not go
far enough to quell their alarm over Russian President Boris N.
Yeltsin's own vision of European security and his new "Near Abroad"
Central Europe has been disappointed in its overtures to the
European Union for economic partnership and to the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization for a security alliance. Regional leaders are
looking anxiously at Clinton's upcoming visit to Moscow, hoping it
will not produce any new "understandings" about who is to wield
influence over their territories. They want Clinton to deliver a
clear message to Moscow from the NATO allies that Central Europe is
not up for grabs in the world's new order. For the governments in
Prague; Warsaw, Poland and Budapest, Hungary, only membership in
NATO can provide the security they feel they need. In their view,
Russia, the dominant power in the region since the end of World War
II, should not have the decisive say on security issues in Central
Nowhere is the feeling of apprehension more apparent, however,
than in the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania,
where Moscow's most recent pronouncements on the new Europe raise
the specter of another era of domination by greater Russia.
In a hastily called session in Tallinn, Estonia, the Baltic
foreign ministers recently issued a joint resolution rejecting
Moscow's claim that it should have the responsibility for peace in
the region. Latvian Foreign Minister Georgs Andreyevs said after
the meeting, "We will not accept the concept of including the
Baltic republics in Russia's zone of interest . . . our views on
that are firm."
The meeting followed Moscow's suggestion late last month that
it should have a mandate to maintain peace in the countries that
formerly belonged to the Soviet Union. Moscow made the proposal at
the Rome meeting of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in
Europe. Yeltsin's plan also assumes Russia should have the right to
intervene in all "nearby countries" to protect its interests.
Those words ring just as ominously as the recent suggestions by
prominent Russian politicians that the former communist bloc should
re-establish security ties along the lines of the dismantled Warsaw
Pact. In theory, this would give the smaller nations in the region
a greater say in the alliance.
Harassed over the last century by bullies from both East and
West, usually with the connivance of Europe's main powers, Central
Europe is suspicious of any solutions coming from its Western
neighbors. Adding to its historical distrust is a broad
misunderstanding between Central European and European Union
governments over their future relations. …