Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 5

German foreign minister Klaus Kinkel yesterday expressed confidence that NATO and Russia would be able to work out their differences over the alliance’s enlargement, but he admitted that Moscow is looking to exact a high price from the West for any such agreement. Kinkel was speaking in the aftermath of German chancellor Helmut Kohl’s January 4 visit to Moscow, after which the German leader suggested that he and Russian president Boris Yeltsin had made progress in breaking the impasse over NATO’s plans. But Russian sources have generally depicted the talks with Kohl in a different light, suggesting that Yeltsin had adhered firmly to Moscow’s long-time opposition to enlargement.

A meeting of top political and military leaders convened by Yeltsin on January 6 appeared to have been aimed at punctuating that message, although Yeltsin’s press spokesman said afterward that Moscow does not consider NATO an enemy. Sergei Yastrzhembsky also suggested that Moscow was pragmatically considering a range of options available to it, and that its ultimate response to enlargement would be calibrated according to the precise way in which NATO actually proceeds with its expansion plans. (NTV, January 6; see Monitor, January 6-7)

‘The Russians are trying to make the price for NATO expansion as favorable for themselves as possible," Kinkel said. "But Russia knows it cannot block NATO expansion." With such considerations in mind, the German foreign minister said it was necessary for NATO leaders to discuss a wide range of military, economic, and diplomatic issues that might make enlargement more palatable to the Kremlin. Although he offered few specifics, Kinkel suggested that this mix of negotiating points might include the CFE Treaty, START II, Moscow’s role in the G-7, and economic aid for Russia.

Kinkel also highlighted the potential utility of a proposal that he has proffered calling for the creation of an "S-17," a permanent consultative body to be comprised of the 16 NATO states and Russia. Kinkel had earlier suggested that this agency might permit NATO to divide its decisions into those it could make unilaterally, those on which it consulted with Moscow, and those on which it required consensus with Russia before implementing. (Reuter, January 7) But hard bargaining will undoubtedly be necessary in the creation of such a body because Moscow has made clear its disinterest in any merely consultative agency. Instead, the Kremlin has demanded a formal voice in NATO affairs, and at times has suggested it wants veto power over the alliance’s enlargement plans as well.

Exactly these sorts of issues were presumably on the agenda during a half-hour telephone conversation between Kohl and U.S. president Bill Clinton on January 6. According to a White House spokesman, the two recognized the need to assuage Russian concerns over enlargement, but also confirmed that NATO’s expansion plans should proceed according to the timetable laid out by NATO foreign ministers in December. That schedule calls for the admission process of proposed new members to begin in July. (AP, January 6)

Yeltsin Reads Nazdratenko the Riot Act.