Russia balks over Baltic states

The applause had barely died down in Paris, nor was the ink dry on the Founding Act, before the ground was being staked out for the next round of international wrangling over the expansion of Nato.

Undeterred by repeated Russian warnings to stay out of former-Soviet republics, the alliance made clear it would make no such commitment; the Baltics - a particularly touchy issue with Moscow - would not be ruled out as future members.

"It is absolutely clear that the Baltic states continue to be eligible for Nato membership," Jamie Shea, spokesman for Nato, told a press conference at the summit for the signing of the partnership accord.

In the run-up to yesterday's ceremony, Moscow has continued to stress that it would reconsider its relationship with the alliance if it sought to take in former Soviet republics, arguing that this would be tantamount to an unacceptable threat to Russia's security.

Before leaving for Paris, President Boris Yeltsin warned that Nato would "fully undermine" its relations with Russia if it expanded to include former Soviet republics. He said he hoped for a "dialogue" with the Baltic States to persuade them that joining Nato would not improve their security.

Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania are a particularly sore point in Moscow, not least because they include millions of ethnic Russians. There are also strategic and political complications: if, for instance, Lithuania were to join the alliance, along with Poland, Russia's enclave in Kaliningrad would be ringed by Nato powers.

Nato's willingness to endorse their eligibility in public may be largely rhetorical - the Baltics do not seem to have much chance of membership in the near future - but it will have pleased Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

After a long period of tense relations with Moscow, the Ukrainian president, Leonid Kuchma, also revealed that he hopes to sign a friendship treaty with Russia during Mr Yeltsin's visit to Kiev on Friday and Saturday. Ukrainian and Russian officials said documents had been prepared for signing, including some concerning the running dispute over the Crimean city of Sevastopol, and the division of the former Soviet Black Sea fleet. Many Russians dispute that Crimea is Ukrainian as it was transferred from Russia only 43 years ago, by Nikita Khrushchev.

The visit has been postponed six times in the past few years. The chances of success seemed to fade recently as Kiev began to develop closer ties with Nato, deepening Moscow's sense of isolation. But yesterday, Mr Kuchma said: "I have high hopes of signing a wide-ranging political treaty ... today I like Yeltsin more. He is less influenced by political factions now."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat