In Berlin yesterday NATO leaders announced a landmark arrangement that they hope will transform the alliance into a more flexible organization, able both to meet the challenges of the next century and to maintain its status as Europe’s dominant security structure. The importance of the agreement, which aims in particular at strengthening the European wing of the alliance, temporarily pushed into the background the related topics of enlargement and relations with Russia. But those issues resurfaced today as Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov met with NATO leaders while foreign ministers from Central and Eastern Europe gathered in Berlin for a meeting of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. (Reuter & AP, June 3; BBC World Service, June 4)
Although Primakov issued some strongly-worded condemnations of NATO enlargement plans over the weekend, in his remarks this morning in Berlin he said NATO was playing "a positive role" by adapting itself to "the challenges of a multipolar world." The BBC said Primakov indicated earlier to NATO leaders that Russia would not object to NATO eastward expansion but would strongly oppose the establishment of military bases or holding of major exercises on the territory of new members.
Primakov’s statement was no surprise. NATO sources yesterday suggested that Moscow might be prepared to move forward in building its own special relationship with the alliance. NATO’s leadership apparently hopes that Moscow can be enticed by the promise of a special relationship–and by pressure from alliance members–not to let differences on enlargement prevent progress in other areas of cooperation. (Reuter, June 3)
Meanwhile, Russian defense minister Pavel Grachev spoke highly in Ukraine yesterday of potential cooperation between Russia and the West through the NATO Partnership for Peace program. But he described that program and NATO’s plans for enlargement as "incompatible." (Interfax, June 3)
Zyuganov Flirts with Zhirinovsky.