In addition to signing the arms control documents on September 26, Russia also reached agreement that same day with Western leaders on an action plan for the Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council. The meeting was the first for the council at the ministerial level, and representatives of both sides expressed satisfaction afterward with its results. The action plan, which will govern the council’s activities through the end of this year, was described as an effort to build confidence between the two sides over the short-term and to lay the groundwork for more ambitious forms of cooperation over the longer term. The council also approved creation of a working group on Bosnia. At an apparently tense meeting of Russian and NATO ambassadors in Brussels on September 11, the two sides had clashed sharply over NATO policy in Bosnia. (See Monitor, September 15)
Under the terms of the action plan, Russia will be invited to base military representatives at NATO headquarters in Brussels, and the two sides will consult on a wide range of security issues, including Bosnia, peacekeeping, international terrorism, military strategy, and nuclear doctrine. Referring to the council, U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright pledged at the meeting that an expanding NATO will try to earn Russia’s trust and bring it closer to the West. She also jokingly expressed the hope that Russia "will come to be bored with NATO" as it gets to know the Western alliance "for what it is." Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov was also upbeat, but nevertheless reiterated Moscow’s warning that its participation in the council should not be interpreted as an indication of support for NATO enlargement. He said that Russia would try to use the council as a means to transform NATO. (Reuter, AP, Itar-Tass, September 26)
Creation of the Russia-NATO council was spelled out in the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, which was signed by the two sides in Paris on May 27 after months of arduous negotiations. The Founding Act represented an effort by the West to reassure Russia of NATO’s friendly intentions as the alliance prepared to embark on enlargement, a decision that was formalized in Madrid on July 8-9. Russia had little choice but to acquiesce in the matter, and Russian leaders have continued to make clear their distaste for expansion. They have also drawn a new line in the sand, warning that Moscow would break off relations with NATO should the alliance decide to admit any of the newly independent countries of the former Soviet Union.
Contacts between NATO and Russia are to get quickly underway. According to NATO secretary general Javier Solana, Russian defense minister Igor Sergeev will travel to Maastricht this week for talks with his NATO counterparts, while Russian General Staff chief Anatoly Kvashnin is to take part in a meeting of the NATO Military Committee in Brussels on October 23. The next meeting of the Permanent Joint Council at ministerial level is scheduled for December 17. (Russian news agencies, September 26)
Ingush President Complains of Double Standards.