Russia is again questioning the credibility of NATO expansion into the Baltic states if they do not ratify the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, which limits the deployment of armed forces in Europe.
NATO members are to decide at a summit in Prague on admitting the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into the defense alliance.
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on Oct. 18 warned that "if this decision is taken, we will be concerned about a clear and concrete aspect: the Baltic states are not signatories of the CFE Treaty," the Interfax news agency reported.
Ivanov reiterated the Russian position on what it sees as NATO encroachment into its former sphere of influence, describing the proposal as "a mistake."
"We consider this position mistaken, particularly as regards the expansion of NATO's military organization," he said.
"To my knowledge, everyone in NATO understands the absurdity of this situation. This problem must be resolved in order to maintain security in Europe," Ivanov said.
An updated version of the CFE Treaty must be ratified by current signatories if Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are accepted into NATO.
The CFE Treaty was introduced in 1990, before the Baltic republics gained their independence from the Soviet Union, as a means of strengthening stability and security in Europe by controlling the conventional armed forces deployed in Europe. It was renegotiated in 1999.
Ivanov's comments came as a two-day meeting of representatives of the Russian government and NATO drew to a close in the northwestern city of Pskov.
The meeting was organized to discuss anticipated NATO expansion to include the Baltic states.
Since the attacks of Sept. 11 and the creation of a new NATO-Russia Council in Rome last May, Russia has considerably improved its ties with the alliance, but it remains resolutely opposed to the expansion of the frontiers of its former Cold War foe.
Three former Soviet bloc states, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, have already joined NATO.