LETTER : Russia should not be left in the cold

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The Independent Online
From Mr Dmitri Vertkin

Sir: Jonathan Eyal ("Russia's charm offensive", 28 February) tries to prove that "the Kremlin's interests remain diametrically opposed to those of Western Europe". Therefore the East Europeans' desire to join Nato, and to do it almost immediately, seems to him natural in the post-Cold War Europe.

With the end of the Cold War and in the absence of any threat coming from Russia, it is natural that Nato's role is changing. One of the possible ways out could be, if any enlargement is to happen at all, that Russia should join Nato at the same time as Poland, the Czech Republic and others. It is evident that at present this could hardly happen because there are too many economic, military and purely technical problems which could be overcome in due course. But Nato's rejection of this order of events, when the third Russian proposal (after Malenkov's in the 1950s and Gorbachev's in the 1980s) is being turned down, could have detrimental consequences for stability and security in Europe.

Russian politicians, as well as a vast majority of ordinary people in the Commonwealth of Independent States, are not just "perplexed" by some of the Eastern European countries' desire to join Nato quickly. They rightly perceive such a situation as impossible. And this is certainly not because they "are far from accepting the irretrievable loss of Eastern Europe". Russian security concerns seem quite natural. The main reason behind Russia's opposition to Nato's enlargement is probably not "maintaining the status quo", but the prospect and willingness of improving her relations with Eastern and Western Europe.

Any attempt to isolate Russia and to exclude the country from decision- making in Europe would naturally bring suspicion and distrust into inter- state relations. I just hope that Mr Eyal's foul "advice" to the Foreign Office to make clear to Viktor Chernomyrdin that co-operation now requires a change of attitude in the Kremlin will be largely ignored.




2 March

The writer, a Visiting Scholar from Kazakhstan, is in the politics department at Lancaster University.