. Moscow maintained its hard-line rhetoric against NATO enlargement over the weekend, although there were also the barest of hints that negotiations between Russia and the West may have made some small progress. Those more positive indications came yesterday, when Russian president Boris Yeltsin told reporters that he and U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright had "agreed to find a compromise" on the issues of NATO enlargement and Moscow’s relations with the Western alliance. "Such a compromise will be found at the summit in Helsinki when I meet with U.S. president Clinton," Yeltsin said. Yeltsin’s remarks followed two days of talks in Moscow between U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright and Russian leaders, including a 50-minute meeting between Albright and Yeltsin on February 21. That was Yeltsin’s first contact with a senior American official since July of last year, and Albright was at pains afterward to emphasize that Yeltsin appeared very much "in charge," "engaged," and "completely in control." Nonetheless, despite reports that Albright’s various meetings had been conducted in a congenial atmosphere, remarks by both sides to the press immediately after the talks suggested that little had been accomplished.
Albright did announce that a working group had been established to negotiate a Russia-NATO political agreement. It will be headed by U.S. deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott and his Russian counterpart, Georgy Mamedov. Some Russian sources reported that Albright had acceded to Moscow’s demand that any such political or "charter" agreement between Russia and NATO be made legally binding and subject to parliamentary ratification, but others suggested that Albright had chosen merely not to contradict Primakov publicly when he made a statement to that effect. To date NATO officials have made clear their opposition to that Russian demand.
Meanwhile, officials also put a guardedly optimistic spin on talks held yesterday in Brussels between NATO secretary general Javier Solana and Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov. Following a session of more than three hours at Solana’s residence, the two sides released a statement saying only that "progress is emerging although differences remain." They also agreed to meet again soon in Moscow. The Solana-Primakov talks were the second in what is expected to be a long and difficult series of negotiations. The first took place in Moscow on January 20, and like the talks yesterday, were subject to a virtual news black-out. (Western and Russian new agencies, February 21-23)
Yeltsin’s remarks yesterday came after his public appearance in connection with Russia’s Defender of the Fatherland day, the contemporary incarnation of the Soviet Union’s Red Army Day. Indeed, the spirit of that old holiday appeared to infuse a Cold War style denunciation of NATO and the West by Russian defense minister Igor Rodionov. The retired general accused the U.S. of "driving a wedge between Russia and Ukraine" and intimated that the West is involved in fomenting instability in the Caucasus and on Russia’s southern border. In an echo of the accusations that often appear in Russia’s ultra-nationalist press, he suggested that the West is prepared to use these circumstances as a pretext to seize Russia’s nuclear forces. (Itar-Tass, February 23)
NATO CFE Offer Taking Shape.