Russia says it may join loose alliance with NATO

March 18, 1994|By New York Times News Service

MOSCOW -- Opening the way to a possible military partnership with the West, Russia said yesterday that it might soon join the loose alliance with NATO that many former Eastern Bloc countries hope will lead to full membership.

"At the end of this month, we will be ready," Defense Minister Pavel Grachev told reporters after meeting Secretary of Defense William J. Perry at military headquarters.

But Mr. Grachev also warned of possible snags, saying, "Since we are a great power, we have a large number of tasks."

One impediment could come from the Communist and nationalist parties, who have always opposed military cooperation with NATO and who solidified their informal coalition earlier this week to oppose the embattled president, Boris N. Yeltsin.

Mr. Perry, who came to Moscow to discuss arms control, said that Washington was prepared to contribute $100 million next year for Russian, Ukrainian and U.S. companies to build housing for Russian troops as part of a defense-conversion plan.

Russia signaled its willingness to ally with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization when such links were first proposed, in part because Moscow did not want to be left out while its neighbors made similar agreements. "Whether we want it or not," said a top-ranking diplomat, Yuri Ushakov, "the program will go on without us.

The United States has viewed an informal NATO alliance, which it calls Partnership for Peace, as an alternative to a strictly military pact that could clear the way to full membership. Russia, which has opposed the expansion of NATO, sees the plan as a way to gain leverage and help shape the relationship between its former satellites and the West.

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