Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 28

The Russian-U.S. economic accords were, however, overshadowed by several political developments. On February 8 Gore and Chernomyrdin announced in Washington that a Russian-U.S. summit would indeed take place this spring — on March 20-21 in Helsinki, Finland. That venue was chosen because it will be easily accessible for ailing Russian president Boris Yeltsin. Chernomyrdin met later in the day with U.S. president Bill Clinton, who told reporters that he would try at the summit to allay Moscow’s concerns over NATO enlargement. "I believe that we ought to work out an agreement between NATO and Russia and involving the United States which ensures that Russia will have a leading role in European security affairs," Clinton said. But Clinton also suggested that the talks in Helsinki will not influence NATO’s decision to invite new members into the NATO alliance as planned, and he appeared to show little enthusiasm for a recent French proposal to hold a five-nation NATO-Russian summit in April. Russian officials had spoken favorably of the French proposal. (Reuter, Itar-Tass, February 7)

Chernomyrdin, meanwhile, suggested in his own remarks on February 7 that Moscow does not intend to accept NATO’s July summit in Madrid, at which the invitations to new members are expected to be issued, as a final defeat of its efforts to halt enlargement. The Russian prime minister observed that the actual military integration of the new member states into NATO will take an additional 2-3 years, and he suggested that, if necessary, Moscow will continue during that time to push for an agreement with the West acceptable with Moscow. As he has on several occasions in recent weeks, Chernomyrdin also raised the issue of NATO’s internal reform, and suggested that developments in this area could be key to winning Moscow’s support for enlargement. To date, Russian leaders have voiced various proposals entailing NATO’s transformation from a military into a political organization. Moscow has also urged the alliance to limit its activities primarily to peacekeeping operations. (Itar-Tass, February 8) During a meeting with U.S. congressional leaders on February 6 Chernomyrdin had stated that Moscow would drop its opposition to enlargement if NATO followed through with internal reforms and if Russia were made a full voting member of NATO’s political council. (Itar-Tass, February 6-7)

Gore and Chernomyrdin Talk About Nuclear Arms Control.