- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2001

Russia in NATO?
The U.S. ambassador to Russia believes Moscow's membership in NATO is a "real theme for discussion" and could become a "long-term" goal.
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow yesterday told the Ekho Moskvy radio station the he saw "no obstacles" in considering Russia's eventual membership in the Western alliance.
"But in a short-term perspective, one should probably discuss ways of deepening relations between NATO and Russia," he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last month said Russia should be admitted to NATO or the alliance should be disbanded and replaced by a new security pact with Moscow as a member.
Mr. Vershbow said NATO seeks "real cooperation with Russia."
"Given this, Russia's membership in NATO is a real theme for discussion," he said.
Mr. Vershbow added that NATO's expansion toward Russia's border could provide stability in Eastern Europe and regional security for Moscow.
He also said that Russia will have no veto over NATO's decision about admitting new members from the old Warsaw Pact at its summit meeting next year.

Good for Russia
The Lithuanian ambassador is pressing his country's case for NATO membership while visiting the Russian enclave in the back yard of the Baltic nation.
Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas has held talks with Adm. Vladimir Nikitin, the governor of Kaliningrad, a Russian region surrounded by Lithuania and Poland and about 500 miles from Moscow.
Mr. Usackas, while on vacation in western Lithuania, dropped in to visit Adm. Nikitin on Tuesday with a message that Lithuania's admission to NATO would help improve relations with Kaliningrad, along with the rest of Russia.
The Baltic News Service said Mr. Usackas has known Adm. Nikitin for years.
They first met when Adm. Nikitin commanded Russia's Baltic fleet and Mr. Usackas was director of the political department of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry.

Warning to Slovakia
The top U.S. diplomat in Slovakia is urging the government to prevent the potential breakup of the ruling coalition.
Douglas Hengel, the charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Bratislava, sent a "clear signal" to the Slovak government in talks this week with Deputy Prime Minister Maria Kadlecikova.
She told Radio Slovakia on Tuesday that Mr. Hengel warned her that the breakup of the coalition "could damage, to a certain extent, the already very fragile image of the Slovak Republic abroad."
"It can be said that [his message] would be a signal about [Slovakia's] political instability," she said.
The government is threatened by the imminent departure of the Party of the Hungarian Coalition, known by its Slovak initials SMK.
Mr. Hengel "highly praised the achievements of the current [government] coalition over the last three years, especially in the foreign policy sphere and, of course, in the field of economic reform," Mrs. Kadlecikova said.
The coalition defeated the former government of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, whom the United States considered an authoritarian ruler.
The West has rewarded the new government with promises of membership in NATO and the European Union.
Mrs. Kadlecikova added that "it is not just the American side" that is concerned about the potential collapse of the government.
"We are getting signals from others, too," she said.
"The Slovak Republic has already done much towards entering NATO. There are some people abroad who want to see the Slovak Republic in NATO.
"It is precisely this problem that concerns them. At issue is the fact that up until now, the Slovak Republic has been working hard on creating a certain image for itself, on improving its reputation of perhaps being an unruly child.
"At this moment, it is as if we were going to abandon everything we have achieved so far."
Mrs. Kadlecikova said Mr. Hengel asked to meet with her to express U.S. concerns and send "a clear signal that this governing coalition fulfill first and foremost the priorities it set for itself and focus on the area where it is strong in the foreign policy sphere."

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