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Putin aide criticizes NATO expansion

Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii, speaking at a conference on Russia-NATO relations in Moscow on 6 December, emphasized that Russia "calmly disapproved" of NATO's decision last month to invite seven new countries -- including the three Baltic states -- to join the alliance, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported. Yastrzhembskii said that NATO is a Cold War relic that has "revealed its inability to respond to new challenges," adding that Central European countries want to join "mostly because of their historical complexes." He claimed that unspecified surveys have shown "an overall public disapproval of NATO" among the populations of the seven invitees. He concluded that expansion will weaken the alliance.

...and says that Moscow is watching the Baltics

Presidential aide Yastrzhembskii also told the conference that once the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia join NATO, their attitude toward their Russian-speaking populations will change, RIA-Novosti reported on 6 December. He said that Moscow will "keep an eye" on developments. "The Russian public is very sensitive to the policies pursued regarding our compatriots in the Baltic states," he was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying.

(RFE/RL 06.xii.02)

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