Morrison, James, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Despite soothing words from Washington, Russia feels neglected, isolated and angry over the expansion of NATO, a leading Russian politician said yesterday.
Vladimir Lukin, also a former ambassador to the United States, said the latest campaign from Washington, aimed at convincing Russians that NATO expansion is good for them, is "arrogant."
"The best way to destroy NATO is to overenlarge it," said Mr. Lukin, speaking from Moscow in a telephone conference call with reporters in the United States.
"I can't believe America would wage nuclear war to defend the borders between Estonia and Russia," he said, responding to a question about how Russia would react to the possible inclusion of the three Baltic nations in the future. "Including the Baltic nations means the end of nuclear [deterrent] credibility."
He said Baltic membership would also be "offensive to Russia." It would "mean the betrayal of all democratic forces" because extreme nationalists and neo-imperialists would use the Baltic issue against them.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have said they want to be included in a second round of NATO expansion. Altogether about a dozen countries are seeking membership in the alliance. NATO is now considering including Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.
Mr. Lukin, now chairman of the Russian parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, held his teleconference as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on NATO expansion.
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said Russia could face more serious challenges if NATO rejects new members.
"They would probably create their own mutual security arrangements, possibly anti-Russian in character," she said. "The very problems Russia fears a larger NATO will cause are precisely the problems a larger NATO will avoid."
Mr. Lukin said Russia fears that expanding NATO draws more dividing lines in Europe and leaves Russia on the outside.
The issue is whether Russia will be considered part of a new Europe, he said. …