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Baltic Trio Not Ready for NATO, Perry Says

September 28, 1996|Associated Press

BERGEN, Norway — In his clearest public statement to date on the issue, Defense Secretary William J. Perry said Friday that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are not ready for full membership in NATO.

"I've told them that they are not yet ready for membership. But the emphasis is on 'not yet,' " Perry said during a meeting with Norwegian journalists.

It has been widely assumed that the three small Baltic nations would be among the first countries invited to apply for NATO membership. The first invitations will be issued next year at a NATO summit.

Igor Rodionov, Russia's defense minister, said Thursday that his government opposes NATO's plans to expand into Eastern Europe.

While he declined to name them, Perry said he thought several Central European nations that were members of the former Soviet bloc do meet the membership criteria.

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