Andrei Kortunov, a Russian foreign policy analyst, said he recently bumped into an executive from Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas monopoly, which is raising billions of dollars on global markets to build a gas pipeline to Western Europe.
“Why are you guys so concerned about the enlargement of NATO to the East?” the executive asked. “I can assure you that the enlargement of NATO to the East will be more than compensated for by the enlargement of Gazprom to the West.”
His comment helps explain why President Boris Yeltsin plans to sign a Founding Act in Paris today with the leaders of the alliance, clearing the way for NATO to invite Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to join by 1999.
Yeltsin is signing, grudgingly, because a deal with NATO is an essential step in his larger effort to integrate post-Cold War Russia into the clubs of the wealthy nations, according to Russian analysts and Western diplomats.
It is a view championed by Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, the deputy prime ministers.
“What we’re seeing is the influence of Chubais and the financial elites,” a Western diplomat said. “They are not interested in confrontation with the West. They want stability with the West, and they want to avoid remilitarization of the economy.”
Increasingly, Russian businesses and the Russian government are popping up in world financial markets, selling shares and seeking loans.
While none of the financial deals is directly linked to NATO expansion, many would have been riskier, costlier or impossible had Yeltsin defiantly turned his back on the alliance and threatened a new confrontation with the West, according to analysts here.