Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 33

The Italian government yesterday offered U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright assurances of Italy’s unqualified support for NATO enlargement, and also joined Washington in rejecting a recent French proposal for a five-nation NATO-Russia summit. Italy’s stand on both points was important for Albright, who, among other things, hopes during this, her first trip abroad as secretary of state, to boost allied unity in the runup to NATO’s July summit in Madrid. Moscow had spoken positively of the French proposal, which calls for an April meeting in Paris of the leaders of Russia, France, Germany, Britain, and the U.S. But Washington’s reaction has been a cool one, and Administration officials have suggested that it makes little sense for such a meeting only three months before the Madrid summit. Addressing reporters at the press conference yesterday, Italian foreign minister Lamberto Dini said that Rome does "not accept the idea of a few countries meeting to discuss ideas that affect all the countries in NATO."

Albright is to hold talks in Moscow on February 20-21. In remarks to reporters prior to her departure for Italy, she said that she hopes to persuade Russian leaders "not to see NATO as an adversarial alliance against Russia." Albright also intimated that Moscow’s recently intensifying rhetoric against NATO’s expansion reflects neither the real view of Russia’s people nor that of the country’s "responsible" leadership. Other U.S. officials, meanwhile, indicated that during her Moscow visit Albright would outline Western proposals for revision of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. She might also brief Russian leaders on a still unpublished State Department-Pentagon study that analyzes the projected costs of enlargement and the assumptions and perceived threats that underlay those calculations, the officials said. (Reuter, February 14) Indeed, while en route to Italy, Albright told reporters that she would be taking some new ideas to Moscow, and she appeared to emphasize that the West had added "beef" to the charter agreement that it has been negotiating with Russia. But she also reiterated Washington’s determination to push ahead with enlargement regardless of how those negotiations turn out.

Albright departed Italy yesterday for Bonn. Tomorrow she is to attend a NATO meeting in Brussels at which she will discuss with the allies CFE treaty issues. (Reuter, February 14; AP, The Washington Post, February 16)

Low Turnout in Second Round of Chechen Elections.