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Friday, 26 January, 2001, 11:32 GMT
Putin warns against Nato expansion
Vladimir Putin
Mr Putin said Nato's bombing strained relations
By Russian Affairs Analyst Stephen Dalziel

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has warned Nato not to expand into former Soviet Union countries and repeated his opposition to America's planned national missile defence shield (NMD).

We consider the policy of NATO enlargement to be a mistake and we say that it is unacceptable to us

President Putin
In a speech at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Mr Putin told Russian diplomats that events in the Balkans had been a set-back for relations between Moscow and the Alliance.

The situation was gradually improving, he said, but if Nato moved into the former USSR it would be "a serious mistake".

Republics such as Ukraine and Azerbaijan have made overtures to the Alliance, but neither of these countries have been considered as serious contenders for membership by Moscow or Brussels.

The potential argument is over the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Anti-missile missile
Putin has rejected the US missile defence plan
They were always reluctant parts of the USSR, having been incorporated by force after the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939.

Almost 10 years after they gained their liberty, they want to underline that independence, and guard against any future possible Russian designs on their territory, by cementing relations with the West.

This would be, firstly, through membership of the European Union, and, ultimately through joining Nato.

Words of warning

Mr Putin's words at a meeting to discuss Russia's foreign policy, were clearly intended as a warning to Nato that Russia is not prepared to relax its stiff opposition to any idea of incorporating any of the Baltic states into the Alliance.

The Russian president used the occasion to warn his US counterpart, George W Bush, that Moscow remains implacably opposed to his plans to NMD.

The Kremlin's line remains that nothing should be done which would break the terms of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty - an agreement which would be violated by current US plans.

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