Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 177

As they crisscrossed the Atlantic Ocean over the weekend, Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov and U.S. secretary of defense William Perry assumed the key roles in the latest round of public negotiation over NATO enlargement. Primakov led off during a September 20 visit to Vienna during which he addressed OSCE leaders and held separate talks with the Austrian chancellor and the NATO secretary-general. In his OSCE speech, Primakov restated Moscow’s long-standing opposition to the advancement of NATO’s "military infrastructure" toward Russia’s border and made no reference either to Washington’s recent calls for a "charter" agreement with Russia or to its proposals outlining an enlarged "Partnership for Peace" program. Instead, Primakov reiterated Moscow’s desire that the OSCE be made Europe’s central security structure and accused the West of reneging on promises not to expand NATO eastward following Germany’s reunification and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. (Russian and Western agencies, September 20)

In addition to slamming Russia for failing to reduce its tactical nuclear weapons arsenal, Perry, in turn, restated Washington’s own commitment to enlargement during a visit to Helsinki on September 21. But while shaking the stick he also offered the carrot. Perry told reporters that he understood Moscow’s concerns about enlargement and that he strongly favored using the charter proposal to give Russia a significant voice in NATO affairs. That voice, Perry suggested, might include Russian participation on NATO committees dealing with such sensitive issues as nuclear weapons, as well as a permanent office at NATO headquarters in Brussels. But Perry also made clear that the charter agreement would not confer on Russia voting rights in alliance affairs. (Western agencies, September 21)

Although Russian officials have described a merely "consultative" agreement with NATO as unacceptable, Primakov did suggest during remarks made in New York yesterday that Moscow may be preparing itself for a grudging acceptance of NATO’s inevitable expansion. "Our position is clear, we are against that [enlargement]," Primakov said, but "we want to find forms which may mitigate a possible NATO expansion’s negative consequences on our relations." And while warning that Russia would react "adequately" to enlargement, Primakov said that Moscow would nevertheless seek "to avoid serious collisions in relations with the West" over the issue. (Itar-Tass, September 23)

Primakov’s words probably warrant little cheer in the West. They suggest that Moscow will continue to wage a fierce rearguard action against enlargement, and that acquiescence — when and if it comes — will be motivated primarily by a calculation that it is better to be inside than outside the European security building process. Western leaders obviously hope that such a scenario will afford them the chance to "win over" Moscow, but the presence in NATO of a potentially disruptive force at a time when the alliance is negotiating a number wrenching changes is likely to be a mixed blessing at best.

Russian Budget Crunch.