Keen to play the statesman on his first visit to the West, Russian security supremo Aleksandr Lebed yesterday dispensed with harsh denunciations of the Western alliance but left observers divided over whether he had signaled Moscow’s acceptance of NATO enlargement as inevitable. In remarks to reporters that followed talks in Brussels with top NATO leaders, Lebed described enlargement as "NATO’s business" and said that Moscow would not go "into hysterics" regardless of decisions made in Brussels. But Lebed also proposed that NATO postpone expansion until after the alliance carries out internal reforms and then establishes a special relationship with Russia. Enlargement, if it is to come, should be left to a "next generation" free of the Cold War’s "mentality of confrontation," Lebed said. The retired general also restated familiar warnings from Moscow that expansion could doom ratification of the START II Treaty in Russia’s parliament and might lead Moscow to renounce the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. But NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana reaffirmed the alliance’s commitment to pursue internal reform, the construction of a special relationship with Moscow, and enlargement on a concurrent rather than a consecutive basis, as had been proposed by Lebed. He described his talks with Lebed as "very open." (Reuter, UPI, Itar-Tass, October 7)
In remarks to reporters upon his arrival in Brussels on October 6 Lebed had said he would offer some new proposals to Solana that might end the dispute over NATO enlargement. It was unclear after the meeting if those proposals went beyond the ideas described above. Lebed also tried to disavow statements he has made in recent weeks that were harshly critical of NATO (See Monitor, September 25-26). In fact, those criticisms of NATO followed a long period during which Lebed was among those Russian leaders least condemnatory of the Western alliance. Lebed’s most recent behavior seems to reflect the fact that, in many important regards, he is once again running for Russian president. Lebed apparently believes that alarmist denunciations of alleged Western threats and chest-thumping declarations of patriotism play well before his domestic audiences. The trip to Brussels, on the other hand, has afforded Lebed a first opportunity to appear presidential on the international stage, and he appears to be conducting himself accordingly.
Moscow Strengthening Presence in Koenigsberg/Kaliningrad.