Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 37

Not unexpectedly, Russian leaders across the political spectrum voiced strong praise for the preliminary agreement reached yesterday between Iraqi authorities and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Russian officials also made clear their belief that Moscow had played a key role in the efforts leading to the agreement, and portrayed the accord as a triumph for diplomacy over the use of military force. (Western and Russian agencies, February 23)

All of those points were evident in remarks made by Russian President Boris Yeltsin to journalists yesterday. The Russian leader also reiterated his earlier warnings that military actions against Iraq could escalate into a broader conflagration that might spill over Iraq’s borders. He suggested that yesterday’s agreement, which must still be approved by the UN Security Council, is likely to avert U.S. and British air strikes on Iraq. "The question [of a settlement] has, for all practical purposes, been resolved," Yeltsin said. "Hussein gave his word." (AP, Radio Russia, February 23)

In an official statement issued yesterday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry drew three conclusions from the successful signing of the agreement in Baghdad. First, that the international community must press firmly for the implementation of UN Security Council decisions. Second, that political and diplomatic efforts "are the optimum way of settling conflicts." Third, that "only through the cooperation of all states, above all permanent members of the UN Security Council," can settlements be reached on "international crises posing a considerable threat to peace and security." (Itar-Tass, February 23) This in particular is consistent with a line long pursued by the Kremlin — which says that Washington cannot be the world’s policeman or the dominant diplomatic power. Russian diplomats have said that post-Cold War realities are creating a "multipolar world," and that Russia is among the powers that must play a key role in managing that world.

While much of the world reacted with applause to yesterday’s agreement, the response in Washington and London was more muted. Leaders there said that they want to look at the details of the accord during meetings this week at the UN. U.S. officials credited yesterday’s agreement to the military buildup in the Gulf. They said that the United States would maintain its forces in the region while the agreement is being examined and if it is approved, while the world community assesses Iraqi compliance with Baghdad’s latest set of commitments to the UN. (Western agencies, February 23)

Yeltsin Threatens Cabinet Reshuffle.