Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 42

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said yesterday that Moscow considers the development of bilateral cooperation between Russia and NATO to be of great importance. Moscow also hopes, he said, that this cooperation will promote the alliance’s evolution into a military and political organization that will serve as "one of the estimable foundations of the European security system." At the same time, the spokesman declared, Russia "clearly distinguishes between cooperation with NATO and the proposed enlargement of this alliance." Moscow’s willingness to cooperate, he added, should not be construed as consent for the alliance’s expansion to Russia’s borders. (6)

The statement adopts in tone what has appeared of late to be a more measured — and possibly flexible — approach in the effort of Russia’s Foreign Ministry to slow, alter, or stop NATO expansion. This rhetorical shift was evident in remarks made recently by Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov to the effect that Moscow hoped to ease the urgency felt by eastern European nations about joining NATO by convincing them that they faced no military threat from Russia. (See Monitor, February 27) Primakov’s avoidance of the loud, stonewall tactics often employed by his predecessor and by many others in the Russian political establishment may be a result of recent meetings he has had with a number of top western leaders. As someone who is widely recognized at home as a reliable defender of Russian interests, Primakov may also not feel, as did his predecessor, the need to resort to confrontational, anti-western rhetoric. Such rhetoric remains a feature of the Russian presidential campaign, however, and continues to distinguish the Defense Ministry’s approach to enlargement.

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