U.S. deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott arrived in Moscow last night amid suggestions in the Russian media that negotiations between NATO and the Kremlin on a proposed political agreement have reached a dead-end. Observers in the Russian capital are said to be interpreting Talbott’s visit and that of U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who arrives in Moscow tomorrow, as a sign of concern in the West that the talks with Russia are in some trouble. It is believed that Albright will be carrying some new proposals aimed at restoring momentum to the talks on the eve of Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov’s May 6 meeting in Luxembourg with NATO secretary general Javier Solana. (Itar-Tass, Interfax, April 29) That will be their sixth round of formal negotiations on a NATO-Russian political agreement; the last round took place in Moscow on April 15 and yielded little evidence of progress. (See Monitor, April 16)
Judging by recent statements from NATO and U.S. officials, however, Albright may have little new to offer the Russians. The talks appear to be stalled on Moscow’s demand that NATO agree to binding limitations on its ability to deploy nuclear and conventional weaponry in newly admitted member states. But, as an unnamed NATO source in Brussels told Interfax yesterday, the alliance believes itself already to have gone far enough toward meeting Russia’s concerns and is unwilling to make further concessions to Moscow that might compromise the status of new member states. (Interfax, April 29)
The Kremlin has indicated on several occasions in recent months that Boris Yeltsin is prepared to sign the NATO-Russia agreement at a ceremony — tentatively scheduled to be held in Paris — at the end of May, and the sharpened rhetoric heard recently from several Russian leaders on the NATO issue appears aimed at wringing as many concessions as possible from the West before that date. Russian first deputy prime minister Anatoly Chubais suggested earlier this week what some of Moscow’ remaining demands may be. As compensation for NATO enlargement Chubais openly called on the eve of talks with U.S. leaders for Russia’s admission into the World Trade Organization and the Group of Seven.
Exploding Ammo Dump Stops Trans-Siberian Rail Traffic.