NATO looks east, but Russia
wants assurance

Alexander Yakovenko, speaking on the eve of the Russia-NATO Council meeting in Madrid, said: "We intend to put the question firmly of the formulation of precise and unequivocal guarantees that arms and military forces of third countries will not be deployed on the territory of the Baltic countries.”

The three Baltic States were Soviet republics for 50 years until they declared their independence in 1990, preceding the break-up of the USSR the following year.

Russia strongly opposed their attempts to join NATO, but made no sustained diplomatic effort to block Baltic republic entry. Instead, the Russian administration has sought to keep bordering countries as demilitarized as possible.

"We note the declarations of the authorities of several countries in the [NATO] Alliance and in the Baltic countries on adhesion to the principle of limitation of military resources," said the foreign ministry statement issued in Moscow.

European treaty issues

Russia also expected initiatives on ratification of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) to be completed, the statement added.
 
CFE seeks to provide for the limitation of forces on the European continent.

The treaty was signed before the three Baltic states became independent of the Soviet Union. A new version, renegotiated in 1999, is still to be ratified by some states hopeful of joining NATO.

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30 countries, including the United States and Russia, signed the updated version limiting conventional forces in Europe, a pact designed to eliminate the risk of surprise attacks, but Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are not yet among the signatories.

"We are concerned about the delay in the ratification of the CFE treaty and the deployment of armed forces in new NATO member states," Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, told the Russia-NATO Council last month.

Russian concern

However, final ratification has been regularly put back amid disagreements between Moscow and Washington over whether Russia has fully met commitments it made to withdraw troops from the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova.
 
The three Baltic states will join the European Union next May and also hope to join NATO next year after being invited to join at the NATO summit in Prague last year.

But with former Warsaw Pact allies Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary already NATO members, and the Baltic states eager to join, Moscow has made public its concern of the former Cold War adversary NATO expanding eastwards up to its own borders.