Russia warns West against Nato growth

`We need a new model based on comprehensive security'
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Russia yesterday repeated its unremitting hostility to the eastwards expansion of Nato in a daunting prelude to tomorrow's important meeting between the Russian Foreign Minister and US Secretary of State. It also warned the West that a "rush" to expand Nato could undermine the partnership agreements already reached.

The Russian statement came amid signs of division between the US and the European Union over an EU suggestion that the West sign a non-aggression accord with Moscow to dilute its opposition to the new political and security system emerging after the Cold War.

The Moscow line was spelt out in blunt terms by the Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev, at yesterday's European Stability Pact conference in Paris. Mr Kozyrev also appeared to defer to domestic populism, asserting at one point that "Russia-bashing" was as bad as anti-Semitism.

Mr Kozyrev is to meet the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, in Geneva tomorrow for talks intended to prepare the way for a summit between their presidents. He took the opportunity of yesterday's 52-nation conference to promote Russian complaints before the widest possible European audience, signalling that Russia will take a robust line in Geneva.

Mr Kozyrev began by praising the Stability Pact, which strengthens good neighbourly relations among the nations of Europe, sanctifies borders and provides for the protection of minorities. "Regrettably, however, this kind of innovative approach is the exception, not the rule," the Russian Foreign Minister said. He warned the conference of a relapse into "outdated confrontation attitudes," singling out what he described as "the rush to expand Nato." "Why rush things?" he asked.

"Whatever we think of Nato it is still a military alliance," he said. It should be replaced by a "new model founded on comprehensive security" - a favourite Russian expression of preference for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). There should be no mistaking the "wide gap" between Russian and Western perceptions, he warned.

The Foreign Office minister, Douglas Hogg, said afterwards he did not detect anything new but agreed that the address clearly showed the depths of Russian concern. "We need to take full account of Russian anxieties in this point." Mr Hogg added that Britain would stick to the formula of "no surprises and no vetoes" in Nato's dealing with Russia.

Mr Kozyrev's speech was an artful mixture of blandishment and truculence, crafted to satisfy the requirements of an international gathering and the demands of nationalists at home. In a typically double-edged allusion, he praised the OSCE for the correctness of its conduct towards Russia's campaign in Chechnya, but a second later went on emphatically to bracket "separatism, aggressive nationalism and xenophobia". He also underlined Moscow's concerns over the rights of Russian speakers in Estonia and Latvia, pointedly calling for international political and diplomatic guarantees to be extended to them.

Mr Kozyrev's performance somewhat overshadowed the ceremonial conclusion of the Stability Pact under the supervision of Edouard Balladur, the French Prime Minister, who was its architect. Seeing the pact as a triumph for French diplomacy and a highly desirable boost to his electoral campaign, Mr Balladur presided with priestly gravitas. He said the pact was a step towards the kind of preventive diplomacy which might have averted war in the former Yugoslavia.

"This experience has shown us that in order to react effectively, Europe has more than ever a need for an adequate organisation of its security and defence," Mr Balladur said.