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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 98, 00-05-22

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 4, No. 98, 22 May 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] NEW ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT APPOINTED
  • [02] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FACTIONS REJECT EXCHANGE OF TERRITORY
  • [03] AZERBAIJAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR FREE ELECTIONS
  • [04] NEW AZERBAIJANI CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION CHAIRMAN
  • [05] AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA DENY HOSTING ISLAMIC ORGANIZATION
  • [06] SEVEN KILLED IN TWO GEORGIAN SHOOTINGS
  • [07] KAZAKHSTAN SELLS PART OF TENGIZCHEVROIL STAKE
  • [08] SUSPECTS IN MURDER OF KAZAKH ARMS EXPORTER APPREHENDED
  • [09] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION ENUMERATES DEMANDS
  • [10] KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SEEKS TO HALT RUSSIAN EMIGRATION
  • [11] TAJIK TV AND RADIO HEAD MURDERED
  • [12] PUTIN VISITS TURKMENISTAN

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [13] THACI RE-ELECTED PARTY LEADER IN KOSOVA
  • [14] KOSOVA SERBS, ROMA END HUNGER STRIKE
  • [15] ARTEMIJE LINKS KOSOVA ELECTIONS TO REFUGEE RETURNS
  • [16] SERBIAN OPPOSITION WANTS DETAINEES FREED
  • [17] HAVE SERBIAN POLICE INTIMIDATED PUBLIC?
  • [18] SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS SEEKING HELP FROM 'BIG, DEMOCRATIC
  • [19] ALBRIGHT CALLS ON SERBIAN OFFICIALS TO 'CHOOSE'
  • [20] BELGRADE DECRIES SANCTIONS--AND MONTENEGRO'S EXCLUSION FROM
  • [21] SERBIAN COURT SENTENCES 143 KOSOVARS
  • [22] MONTENEGRO 'WON'T WAIT'
  • [23] BUSY WEEKEND IN CROATIAN POLITICS
  • [24] ROMANIAN POLITICIANS CALL ON ILIESCU TO QUIT PRESIDENTIAL
  • [25] ROMANIA ASKS INTERPOL TO LOCATE CONVICTED GENERAL
  • [26] MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REFUSES TO RATIFY TREATY WITH UKRAINE
  • [27] MOLDOVAN TRANSDNIESTER PRISONER OPPOSED TO BASIC TREATY WITH
  • [28] CORRUPTION ENDEMIC TO BULGARIA'S PAST OR PRESENT?
  • [29] BULGARIAN PREMIER VOWS TO PUSH REFORMS, CUT UNEMPLOYMENT

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [30] A BIG BANG OUTSIDE A CLOSELY GUARDED DOOR

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] NEW ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT APPOINTED

    President Robert Kocharian

    issued a series of decrees on 20 May detailing the

    composition of the new cabinet headed by Andranik Markarian

    and increasing the number of ministries, RFE/RL's Yerevan

    bureau reported. Most ministers from the outgoing cabinet

    retain their posts, including the ministers of finance and

    the economy, industry and trade, national security, justice,

    foreign affairs, and internal affairs. In an unexpected move,

    Kocharian appointed his close associate, former Interior and

    National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian, as defense

    minister. Both the Ministry of Health and Social Security and

    the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection were

    split into two separate components. The second-largest

    parliamentary faction, Kayunutiun, received the portfolios

    for the environment and for transport and communications. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FACTIONS REJECT EXCHANGE OF TERRITORY

    Meeting on 19 May, the leaders of parties and factions

    represented in the Armenian parliament issued a statement

    rejecting any proposed exchange of territory between Armenia

    and Azerbaijan as a violation of Armenia's territorial

    integrity, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported.

    It added that any proposed settlement of the Karabakh

    conflict must be endorsed by the Armenian parliament. The

    statement noted presidential spokesman Vahe Gabrielian's

    denial the previous day that Kocharian and his Azerbaijani

    counterpart, Heidar Aliev, had reached any such agreement

    (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2000). LF

    [03] AZERBAIJAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR FREE ELECTIONS

    Between

    10,000 and 20,000 people marched through central Baku on 20

    May to demand amendments to the existing election legislation

    to ensure that the November elections to the legislature are

    truly democratic, Turan and Reuters reported. Some also

    chanted "Karabakh!" and "Resignation!" Hundreds of armed

    police lined the route taken by the demonstrators but did not

    intervene. Leaders of several opposition parties addressed a

    subsequent meeting, whose participants adopted 14 demands,

    including that parliament debate the election law drafted by

    the opposition, that the Azerbaijani leadership comply with

    its human-rights pledges to the Council of Europe, and that

    police refrain from violence against opposition

    representatives and release those persons imprisoned for

    participating in the unsanctioned opposition demonstration in

    Baku on 29 April. LF

    [04] NEW AZERBAIJANI CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION CHAIRMAN

    APPOINTED

    Central Electoral Commission department head

    Mazakhir Magomed ogly Panakhov has been named chairman of the

    commission, replacing Djafar Veliev, who was appointed

    chairman of Azerbaijan's Economic Court, ITAR-TASS and Turan

    reported on 19 May. Panakhov, who is a physicist, formerly

    edited "Azerbaijan International Magazine." LF

    [05] AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA DENY HOSTING ISLAMIC ORGANIZATION

    The

    head of the Azerbaijani cabinet's department for religious

    affairs, Mustafa Ibragimov, told ITAR-TASS on 19 May that the

    Ministry of Justice closed down the Azerbaijan office of the

    Saudi Arabia-based international Islamic organization Al-

    Haramein two months earlier on the grounds that its

    activities did not correspond to its charter. The office was

    opened in early 1999, A second Justice Ministry official said

    that some of the organization's activities posed a threat to

    Azerbaijan's statehood. On 20 May, the Georgian National

    Security Ministry denied that Al-Haramein ever had a

    representative office in Georgia, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

    [06] SEVEN KILLED IN TWO GEORGIAN SHOOTINGS

    Five people died

    early on 20 May when unidentified attackers opened fire on

    their car near Tskhinvali, the capital of the unrecognized

    Republic of South Ossetia, Reuters and Caucasus Press

    reported. The previous day, two Abkhaz police officers were

    killed and three wounded in an attack on their post in

    Abkhazia's Gali Raion, Caucasus Press reported. LF

    [07] KAZAKHSTAN SELLS PART OF TENGIZCHEVROIL STAKE

    Ending months

    of speculation and contradictory statements, the Kazakh

    government last week finally sold 20 percent of its 25

    percent stake in the Tengizchevroil joint venture to Chevron

    for $450 million, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 18 May.

    Chevron now has a 50 percent stake in Tengizchevroil. The

    Kazakh government and the U.S. oil company had discussed the

    sale last fall but failed to agree on terms (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 6 December 1999). Kazakh government officials

    have been debating since last August the advisability of

    selling part or all of Astana's share in the company, which

    is developing oil fields in eastern Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 7 September 1999 and 16 March 2000). LF

    [08] SUSPECTS IN MURDER OF KAZAKH ARMS EXPORTER APPREHENDED

    Police last week arrested two men in connection with the

    murder last month in Almaty of Talgat Ibraev, the head of

    Kazakhstan's state-owned arms export company, RFE/RL's bureau

    in the former capital reported on 18 May (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 18 April 2000). The suspects are Ibraev's driver

    and his deputy's driver. LF

    [09] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION ENUMERATES DEMANDS

    Kyrgyz opposition

    representatives released in Bishkek on 19 May a list of

    demands they intend to present to the government during the

    roundtable discussion scheduled for early June, RFE/RL's

    Bishkek bureau reported. The opposition is demanding the

    release of and a fair trial for detained opposition leaders

    Feliks Kulov and Emil Aliev, a halt to the persecution of

    opposition leaders Jypar Jeksheev and Daniyar Usenov,an end

    to harassment of the independent media and NGOs, an objective

    appraisal of the parliamentary elections held in February-

    March, and registration of the Guild of Prisoners of

    Conscience, formed last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April

    2000). On 18 May, Russian politicians including State Duma

    deputies Sergei Kirienko and Irina Khakamada, wrote to Kyrgyz

    President Askar Akaev expressing their concern at

    Kyrgyzstan's retreat from democracy and appealing to Akaev to

    guarantee human rights. They, too, called for Kulov's release

    and a halt to pressure on the media. LF

    [10] KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SEEKS TO HALT RUSSIAN EMIGRATION

    Akaev

    issued a special decree on 20 May outlining measures to

    improve the situation of Kyrgyzstan's dwindling ethnic

    Russian minority in order to stem the accelerating emigration

    of competent personnel, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported.

    "Vremya-MN" reported last month that 2,200 Russian families

    left Kyrgyzstan in January and 4,200 in February, compared

    with last year's average of 500-600 families a month. LF

    [11] TAJIK TV AND RADIO HEAD MURDERED

    In Dushanbe late on 20 May,

    Tajik State TV and Radio Chairman Saifullo Rakhimov was shot

    dead by six unidentified attackers in camouflage uniforms,

    who managed to escape. President Imomali Rakhmonov condemned

    the shooting as "a terrorist act," Reuters reported. LF

    [12] PUTIN VISITS TURKMENISTAN

    Russian President Vladimir Putin

    paid a one-day visit to Ashgabat on 19 May, together with

    Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev,

    and Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev. Before their talks, Putin and

    Turkmen President Sapamurat Niyazov visited a bazaar and

    toured local construction projects. Putin stressed Moscow's

    support for Turkmenistan's neutrality and termed Turkmenistan

    a "leading partner." He said the development of "large-scale

    cooperation" between the two countries would benefit Central

    Asia as a whole. Putin also told journalists that Russia has

    agreed to purchase an additional 10 billion cubic meters of

    Turkmen gas annually at a price still to be negotiated. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [13] THACI RE-ELECTED PARTY LEADER IN KOSOVA

    The Party for the

    Democratic Progress of Kosova began a three-day congress in

    Prishtina on 20 May. Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN's

    civilian mission in the province, called the gathering a

    "vivid sign of a democratic culture," Reuters reported. He

    urged the delegates to promote "open debate...without

    intimidation of any kind" in Kosova. This is the first

    congress of any party in the province since the 1999 war. On

    21 May, the delegates re-elected the former Kosova Liberation

    Army's (UCK) Hashim Thaci as chairman and changed the party's

    name to Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK). The PDK regards

    itself as the political home of former UCK fighters, but many

    of them have organized or joined numerous locally-based

    smaller parties and coalitions in various parts of the

    province. PM

    [14] KOSOVA SERBS, ROMA END HUNGER STRIKE

    Some 41 non-Albanian

    prisoners ended a hunger strike in Mitrovica on 21 May. They

    had launched the protest on 12 April to demand that they

    stand trial soon before foreign judges. Kouchner said that he

    has agreed to their demand. AP reported that it is unclear

    where he will find the judges. PM

    [15] ARTEMIJE LINKS KOSOVA ELECTIONS TO REFUGEE RETURNS

    Serbian

    Orthodox Archbishop Artemije, who is a moderate leader of

    Kosova's Serbs and is opposed to Yugoslav President Slobodan

    Milosevic, said in Brussels on 19 May that it will be too

    early to hold elections in Kosova this fall unless Serbian

    and other non-Albanian refugees are able return to their

    homes before then. He added that his Serbian National Council

    will continue to work with Kouchner's advisory council only

    if the refugees can come home and live in security, RFE/RL's

    South Slavic Service reported. PM

    [16] SERBIAN OPPOSITION WANTS DETAINEES FREED

    Some of Serbia's

    key opposition leaders told several thousand protesters in

    Belgrade on 21 May that the authorities must not continue to

    detain opposition supporters without charging them (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2000). In recent days, police have

    detained several dozen opposition activists, including one

    man whose offense was to wear an opposition T-shirt in

    public, AP reported. Most detainees were freed after

    questioning. Under current legislation, police can detain

    people for 72 hours without filing charges. The authorities

    may soon implement a new law that would "create an informal

    state of emergency," "The New York Times" reported on 22 May.

    Under the new law, the police could detain people "on grounds

    of national security" for up to 60 days without filing

    charges. Police would be entitled to conduct searches without

    warrants and confiscate any firearms, including legally

    registered ones. PM

    [17] HAVE SERBIAN POLICE INTIMIDATED PUBLIC?

    Milosevic pledged in

    Belgrade on 19 May to defend Serbia against all "enemies."

    General Branko Djuric, who heads the Belgrade police, told

    the opposition-led city government that the police will

    intervene "every time that public order and peace are

    threatened," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Some

    observers have suggested that the tough police response to

    protests has discouraged many people from taking part in the

    demonstrations, where attendance has been generally limited

    to a few thousand. Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic

    told AP on 21 May that the opposition will win only when

    large numbers of people take to the streets. The "Financial

    Times" suggested on 22 May that many Serbs do not join the

    protests because they are apathetic, poorly informed, or

    disillusioned with politics. PM

    [18] SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS SEEKING HELP FROM 'BIG, DEMOCRATIC

    COUNTRY'?

    Nationalist opposition leader Vuk Draskovic said on

    21 May that the opposition will "ask from that big,

    democratic country [Russia] to do everything to help stop the

    terror in Serbia...and help our efforts to have free and fair

    elections here," AP reported. Djindjic said that he and two

    other unnamed opposition leaders will soon travel to Moscow

    to meet with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and other top

    officials to "clarify certain things concerning the Russian

    government's views toward the undemocratic authorities in

    Serbia." The private news agency Beta reported from Moscow,

    however, that the Foreign Ministry denied having "any

    contacts whatsoever" with Draskovic. PM

    [19] ALBRIGHT CALLS ON SERBIAN OFFICIALS TO 'CHOOSE'

    U.S.

    Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in Washington on

    19 May that "officials in Serbia face a choice. They can

    stand for the freedom and the rights of all Serbs, or they

    can prolong Milosevic's rule by participating in the

    oppression," AP reported. She warned that in particular

    judges, police, prosecutors, and leaders of the security

    forces will have to "face the consequences" if they remain

    loyal to the regime. Speaking to a joint press conference

    with Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, she praised the

    "courageous men and women who are demanding their rights in

    the cities and towns across Serbia." PM

    [20] BELGRADE DECRIES SANCTIONS--AND MONTENEGRO'S EXCLUSION FROM

    THEM

    The Yugoslav Foreign Ministry said in a letter to the

    EU in Brussels on 21 May that EU sanctions constitute

    "continuing pressure aimed at destabilizing Yugoslavia,"

    Tanjug reported. The sanctions have "also inflicted great

    losses on Yugoslavia's neighbors." Belgrade "demands that the

    EU immediately lift all sanctions," the message stressed. The

    text added, however, that the exclusion of Montenegro from

    the sanctions "is a direct attack on the constitutional

    system of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the unity of

    the people." PM

    [21] SERBIAN COURT SENTENCES 143 KOSOVARS

    A court in Nis has

    sentenced some 143 ethnic Albanians from the Gjakova area of

    Kosova to prison terms of up to 13 years for "terrorism." All

    defendants allegedly took part in attacks on Serbian forces

    in 1999. It was the biggest mass trial ever held in Serbia,

    AP reported on 22 May. PM

    [22] MONTENEGRO 'WON'T WAIT'

    Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko

    Lukovac said in Ancona, Italy, on 20 May that his country

    "won't wait forever" and will have to "go it alone" if the

    Serbian opposition does not oust Milosevic. "We can't afford

    to lose another decade, not even a year," Reuters reported.

    He was attending a meeting on Adriatic cooperation that

    included foreign ministers and other top officials from

    Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Greece, and Albania.

    Lukovac attended as an observer. The Italian and Croatian

    defense ministers signed an agreement on military

    cooperation. PM

    [23] BUSY WEEKEND IN CROATIAN POLITICS

    The lower house of the

    parliament on 19 May failed for the third time to pass the

    government's bill on reconstruction, which will make funds

    available to Serbian refugees. The Croatian Democratic

    Community, Croatian Democratic Center, and Croatian Party of

    [Historic] Rights opposed the measure on the grounds that it

    will "give the [Serbian] aggressors rights equal to those of

    the [Croatian] victims," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

    reported. The next day, the Social Liberals re-elected Drazen

    Budisa as their leader. He denied that the party is moving to

    the right and reaffirmed its commitment to the coalition with

    the Social Democrats. Elsewhere, the Peasants' Party re-

    elected Zlatko Tomac as its head. Tomac had asked for a vote

    of confidence following the party's poor performance in the

    recent Zagreb municipal vote. PM

    [24] ROMANIAN POLITICIANS CALL ON ILIESCU TO QUIT PRESIDENTIAL

    RACE

    Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica on 20 May said that

    both the "Adrian Costea affair" and the implication of former

    President Ion Iliescu in the "hot-line" link to Moscow are

    damaging Romania's international credibility. "The most

    reasonable solution," he concluded, would be for Iliescu to

    withdraw from the 2000 presidential race, RFE/RL's Bucharest

    bureau reported. Stoica said that the money-laundering affair

    surrounding Costea clearly indicates that the 1996

    presidential campaign was financed illegally, and he called

    on the parliament to adopt stricter legislation on the

    funding of political parties. Hungarian Democratic Federation

    of Romania Chairman Bela Marko also called on Iliescu to

    withdraw from the race. But Party of Social Democracy in

    Romania Executive Vice Chairman Adrian Nastase said Iliescu

    remains the party's candidate. Nastase was questioned as a

    witness on 19 May by French investigators. MS

    [25] ROMANIA ASKS INTERPOL TO LOCATE CONVICTED GENERAL

    The

    Romanian authorities on 19 May asked Interpol to help locate

    General Victor Stanculescu, who was sentenced to 15 years in

    prison for his role in the attempt to quash the December 1989

    uprising in Timisoara, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.

    Also on 19 May, General Mihai Chitac, who received the same

    prison term as Stanculescu, was indicted for the role he

    played as interior minister in the June 1990 miners' rampage

    in Bucharest. The Prosecutor-General's Office accuses Chitac

    of having ordered the opening of fire on demonstrators who

    were also attacked by the miners. Four people died as a

    result, and several hundred were injured during the clashes.

    MS

    [26] MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REFUSES TO RATIFY TREATY WITH UKRAINE

    Lawmakers on 19 May refused to ratify the basic treaty with

    Ukraine and indefinitely suspended the debate on that accord,

    Romanian Radio reported. Moldova's legislators debated the

    treaty in closed session, but Romanian radio said the

    deputies objected to the provision on a swap of small pieces

    of territory. MS

    [27] MOLDOVAN TRANSDNIESTER PRISONER OPPOSED TO BASIC TREATY WITH

    ROMANIA

    Ilie Ilascu, who has been sentenced to death by the

    separatist authorities and is in prison in Tiraspol, has

    urged Romanian President Emil Constantinescu to refuse to

    promulgate the basic Romanian-Moldovan treaty, Mediafax

    reported on 19 May. In a letter to Constantinescu, Ilascu

    said the treaty is an "enormous mistake" that will result in

    Romania's abandoning "a part of her people." He added that he

    is not surprised by the pro-treaty position of the leadership

    in Chisinau, whose views he called "pro-Russian and pro-

    Communist." Ilascu also accused the Moldovan leadership of

    failing to solve the conflict with the Transdniester because

    it knows it "can be blackmailed by its KGB files, which are

    in Tiraspol." MS

    [28] CORRUPTION ENDEMIC TO BULGARIA'S PAST OR PRESENT?

    Prosecutor-

    General Nikola Filichev on 19 May said 24 trials related to

    the country's economic crash of 1996-1997 will begin by mid-

    July, AP reported. Individuals close to the Socialist Party

    are suspected of having channeled public money to private

    accounts abroad and causing the collapse of 15 banks through

    illegal borrowing and defaults on debts. On 20 May, former

    Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev said in an interview

    published in "24 Chasa" that the ruling Union of Democratic

    Forces is guilty of using undeclared funding of doubtful

    origin. Bonev said every privatization deal involves at least

    one deputy from the union acting as intermediary. And he

    added that individuals with links to the ruling coalition

    have been involved in smuggling gold and weapons. MS

    [29] BULGARIAN PREMIER VOWS TO PUSH REFORMS, CUT UNEMPLOYMENT

    Ivan Kostov on 21 May said anyone in his government who comes

    under a "well-based suspicion" of being corrupt will be fired

    even before evidence is collected on his or her deeds, AP and

    Reuters reported. Kostov pledged to continue the reform

    process, despite a sharp drop in his cabinet's popularity due

    to resentment over the social costs of restructuring. He said

    coping with unemployment will be the main concern of his

    government but expressed confidence that "the greatest

    hardships are past us." He said his government intends to

    privatize the BTC telecom monopoly as well as Bulgaria's

    largest bank, Bulbank, in line with pledges it made to the

    IMF, the World Bank, and other international lenders. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [30] A BIG BANG OUTSIDE A CLOSELY GUARDED DOOR

    By Paul Goble

    Several East European countries are calling on NATO

    to admit all nine applicant states in 2002, an appeal

    that reflects their concerns about developments in

    Moscow and their fears that the alliance may put off any

    further expansion well into the future.

    Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Vygaudas

    Usackas has labeled this the "big bang" approach, as he

    explained at a meeting of applicant states in Vilnius

    late last week. According to Usackas, this idea is

    designed to reenergize discussions about European

    security by highlighting the anxieties of the countries

    located between NATO and the Russian Federation.

    After admitting Poland, Hungary, and the Czech

    Republic in 1999, the alliance pledged that the door to

    alliance membership would remain open to all other

    countries interested in joining. But as Munich's

    "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" pointed out on 17 May , this door

    has turned out to be "a very closely guarded" one.

    On the one hand, NATO's current members are

    experiencing some difficulties in fully integrating the

    three newest members and also in defining what role the

    alliance should play relative to other defensive

    organizations such as the West European Union and the EU

    security initiative. Moreover, several NATO countries,

    including the U.S., are now involved with elections or

    recent changes in government that have in effect stalled

    foreign policy initiatives, such as NATO expansion.

    On the other hand, many NATO countries appear

    reluctant to move the borders of the alliance further

    east out of concern over a Russian backlash. Moscow has

    made it very clear that it would view any further

    expansion of the alliance as a hostile act, and as a

    result, the alliance has devoted a great deal of work to

    restoring ties with Russia.

    Last week, for example, the Russia-NATO Joint

    Permanent Council met in Brussels at the ambassadorial

    level. That meeting set the stage for Russian

    participation at the ministerial level in the NATO

    council meeting in Florence on 24 May--the first time

    since NATO's Kosova operation that the Russian

    government will have been represented at that level.

    The nine countries which seek to join the alliance-

    -Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia,

    Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, and Albania--have drawn

    various conclusions from this.

    Some have expressed doubt that NATO will ever take

    in any new members. Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar,

    for example, said recently that "the big question is

    less a matter of who will be admitted in the next NATO

    expansion than whether there will be another round of

    expansion at all."

    Others have counted on being among the chosen few,

    an approach that has sometimes put these countries at

    odds with one another. Slovakia, for example, is

    counting on Hungarian backing. Hungary's Prime Minister

    Viktor Orban has pointedly said that "without Slovakia,

    there won't be a second expansion round."

    Usackas's call for a "big bang" approach to

    expansion is clearly intended to overcome both these

    competing assessments and what many of these countries

    see as a certain Western complacency about developments

    in Russia. Many of these countries are extremely worried

    by the newly assertive Russian foreign policy of

    President Vladimir Putin and by the West's obvious

    desire to find a common language with the new Russian

    leader.

    Some of them fear that in the absence of NATO

    expansion anytime soon, they will fall into a dangerous

    gray area of insecurity where their politics will be

    about national survival rather than about domestic

    development. And many are concerned that the inclusion

    of some, rather, than all will provoke Russia to put new

    pressure on those not taken in.

    These fears are not new, but the call from Vilnius

    suggests they are growing. That may not prompt the

    alliance to move more quickly on some or all of the

    applicant states. But the introduction of the term "big

    bang" may have the effect of leading to a renewed

    discussion of just how open the door to NATO membership

    really is.

    22-05-00


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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