Kozyrev raises spectre of resurgent Russia

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The Independent Online
ANDREI KOZYREV, the Russian Foreign Minister, sent a shudder throughout East Europe yesterday when he declared that the future security of the region should be guaranteed both by Russia and the West. Speaking in the Polish city of Krakow, Mr Kozyrev called for a pan-European partnership in which Russia would be fully included and a security system in which 'there cannot be a division into countries which are threatened and those which are not'.

Coming hot on the heels of Russia's successful intervention in the Yugoslav conflict, Mr Kozyrev's statement underlined Moscow's increasing determination to regain its status as a big power and not to be excluded from key decisions.

'There can be no revival of the empire,' Mr Kozyrev told the opening session of a Polish- Russian conference Towards a new Europe. 'But Russia cannot be ignored when major international diplomatic actions are being considered.' To the dismay of his hosts, Mr Kozyrev reiterated Russia's strong objections to the former satellite countries of eastern Europe joining Nato. While not specifically ruling out the possibility that some might eventually do so, he urged them to think carefully of the consequences. In Moscow, such an act would be seen as tantamount to the creation of new political barriers which could provoke counter-measures. 'Russia could transform into a military camp if it is isolated,' he warned.

In practice, Mr Kozyrev said that Russia would like to see pan- European relations developing within the framework of the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) and, in the military sphere, within the North Atlantic council, a body including representatives from Nato and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). East European security could, through these structures, then be guaranteed by Russia and the West, he said.

It was a suggestion that went down like a lead balloon in Warsaw, where suspicions of Russian intent run deep. 'We have had a lot of experience of security guarantees from Moscow - and we do not want any more,' said one official. 'It is becoming only too clear that Russia is still unable to see us as truly independent countries. It still wants to dictate terms.'

That, ultimately, was the overriding impression left behind by Mr Kozyrev during his tour of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland during the past five days. Despite repeated protestations that Moscow no longer viewed its former Warsaw Pact allies as vassal states, the suspicion remained that it was unwilling to surrender all claims on them.

'We can only be safe by joining Nato in the way it is organised and run now. We do not want somebody else offering to guarantee our security,' the Warsaw official said. 'Moscow is testing the waters. After a long period of weakness, it now wants to reassert itself. After Sarajevo it has regained its confidence.'