Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 29

Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov is scheduled to meet for the first time today with his American counterpart, Warren Christopher, for talks that few believe will yield any significant diplomatic breakthroughs. The pressure on Primakov to assume a more assertive posture in his dealings with the United States than did his predecessor was illustrated by ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s observation that "if Primakov and Christopher kiss and hug, it means things are going badly" for Russia. The talks, which are taking place in Helsinki, are likely to include discussion of the peace process in Bosnia, START II, NATO expansion, and the visit of U.S. president Bill Clinton to Russia in April.

Meanwhile, in a presentation before Duma deputies yesterday, Primakov again slammed NATO for its expansion plans and rejected arguments that the alliance does not constitute a potential threat to Russia. He also described as "primitive and untrue" allegations by western leaders that Russia has "imperial habits" and seeks "the restoration of the Soviet Union in its previous form." As he has in the past, Primakov characterized reintegration as an objective and irreversible process. He also pledged to defend more staunchly Russia’s national interests. Primakov nevertheless pointed to "large areas of matching interests" between Russia and the West and said that Moscow desired wide-ranging relations with its former Cold War opponents, but only on the basis of an equal partnership. (8)

Russia Scolds Iraq; Signs Oil Agreement.