Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin used a meeting yesterday with his visiting Austrian counterpart, Viktor Klima, to reiterate Russia’s opposition to NATO enlargement and its commitment to the creation of a Europe "free of blocs and dividing lines." Chernomyrdin placed his NATO remarks in the context of what has recently become the Kremlin’s standard call for Europe to unite with Russia against outside interference, telling reporters after his talks with Klima that it is "the task of our states, as European countries, to do everything possible to prevent new dividing lines." (Itar-Tass, October 29) Russian president Boris Yeltsin has called on several occasions in recent months for a diminished U.S. presence on the continent.
Although there was no evidence of any strong language used by Chernomyrdin in his talks with Klima yesterday, Moscow had earlier objected sharply to calls in Austria for the country to seek NATO membership. In June of this year Russia’s Foreign Ministry alleged that the U.S. and NATO were pressuring Austria to join the Western alliance, and it urged Vienna to maintain its current status of neutrality. An unnamed Russian diplomat amplified that message when he specified that Russia is opposed to any enlargement of NATO, and not merely to its expansion eastward toward the Russia’s borders. (See Monitor, June 12)
Chernomyrdin proclaimed himself fully satisfied with yesterday’s talks, which covered other international issues as well as economic relations between the two countries. The two men signed an agreement on scientific and technical cooperation, and Chernomyrdin said that the two countries would also establish joint ventures in such areas as power engineering, metallurgy, and machine-building. Klima reportedly asked for help in removing some of the obstacles hampering the entry of Austrian firms into the Russian market, and said that the Austrian government is ready to help train Russian managers and other business executives. According to Russian first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, Austria’s investment in the Russian economy remain modest, at about $300 million. Klima said that Austria would work to invigorate Russia’s cooperation with the European Union after Vienna takes over the EU’s rotating presidency in July of next year. The Austrian chancellor is to conclude his talks in Moscow today. (Itar-Tass, October 29)
Russian and American Nuclear Missilemen to Exchange Visits.