Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Russia Alarms Central Europe

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Russia Alarms Central Europe

Article excerpt

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" doctrine.

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 Europe.

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. …

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